WHAT is lifestyle? It can be different for different people and there are a lot of variables in between that govern the kind of lifestyle an individual follows. It has, however, become fashionable these days to align the term with only a certain class of people, with supposedly a certain level of education and income and their pursuit of a certain kind of social life. Age also plays a role in today’s concept of lifestyle, which can mean that only young individuals are permitted to subscribe to the ‘lifestyle club’.
A couple in their early 60s enjoying a meal at a corner table at a restaurant in Zamzama in Karachi or at the Fortress Stadium in Lahore does not end up making a splash on the social media. Even if they take a selfie and the lady adds it to her Facebook status, no one pays any attention. If there is another couple at the same restaurant, say, people in their mid-20s, occupying a table somewhere in the middle, they are noticed by everyone coming in or going out and when they post their status selfie on the net, everyone says ‘Wow!’ – and they end up getting tons of ‘likes’.
It is not clear whether everyone hankers to identify with a lifestyle except perhaps the educated young urbanite, but it is a fact that this is the segment that most advertising and marketing people want to penetrate because, in their estimation, this is where the budget spend is. This sort of thinking is right to a great extent because it is the upwardly mobile class that is supposed to belong to this group. At the same time, it is also true that lifestyle is the domain of a lot of other people as well who necessarily do not have to be young fashionistas.
So what if there are people in various age brackets who eat at dhabas and do not frequent the chaiwalas in Defence or consume chocolate parathas. They probably frequent the chainki-wala in the bazaar for tea, have malai and paratha for breakfast and go to Burns Road for nihari. But this is their lifestyle and they comprise a large buying class as far as the marketer is concerned. This means, they need to be noticed.
The young alone don’t have a copyright on the term ‘lifestyle’ and the same is true for the urban elite. Every life has a lifestyle.
People who are not young anymore are probably trodden over because they do not get a high if a fast-food delivery is made at their doorstep. They would rather go out and eat a pizza. But if the same pizza is delivered to a young person, he or she can eat it alone at 2 O-clock in the night, while in bed while watching an episode of the Game of Thrones. That is the young person’s lifestyle whether you like it or not. If mom and dad want to join in, they are most welcome but this sort of routine – sleeping in the day and staying awake at night – would be abnormal for them and they would be cut off from their friends and rishteydars.
On a typical Saturday afternoon, a young wife and her two kids head for a mall in town to have cold coffee and maybe do a bit of window-shopping while the husband gets a makeover from the town’s best-known female beautician so that he will be the centre of attraction in his office on Monday or the envy of his friends at the party later that week.
Oh, by the way, on Sunday, the same couple would like to be noticed sitting in the lounge of a multiplex, all ready for their turn, popcorn in hand, waiting for their movie show. When their parents go to a film show, they would never bother about buying popcorn and would wait in a corner of the foyer if they arrive early.
Depending on your age bracket, having a lifestyle also means whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. If you are not young and an introvert, it would mean you don’t like meeting people and you don’t attend any social gathering, of course except going to someone’s house to condole or join a namaz-e-janaza. You hardly go to weddings and you attend birthday parties only of your close family or your grandchildren. It is a given that you don’t like having your own birthday party or celebrating your wedding anniversary, much to the chagrin of your better half. You dread it if someone invites you over for a meal or you are supposed to attend a social event. You would rather snuggle on a sofa in some corner of the house with a newspaper or book or watch NatGeo on TV – alone.
If you are an extrovert, all this does not happen and you merrily enjoy every moment of socialising, going to the club, attending weddings and even dressing up appropriately for a funeral. In fact, you look for opportunities to meet people and even enjoy chatting with the fruit-wallah. Making friends with the person on the next seat in the plane is no problem for you. Being a social animal or otherwise is all a part of your lifestyle and you like it when someone calls your name from a distance at a large gathering.
Being interested in a sport is also a part of your lifestyle. But age also plays an important role here. You like to discuss the players or a recent event with other people in your age-group, depending in which age bracket you are in. The older lot still follows cricket though many of the well-heeled also go for golf or tennis. The younger ones are increasingly becoming football lovers and they know the names of all the clubs around the world and can identify the leading players. The age difference is, however, the gulf between the young and old, and they both sound Greek to each other when caught in some kind of a discussion on sports.
Though there are exceptions, women, generally speaking, have little to do with detailed sports discussions. They have their own interest areas, from the corporate to the fashion world. Latest fashion collections and happenings on the fashion scene figure slightly higher than in male groups though exceptions, as always, are there. The younger ones are aware of all the new designers who are making their appearance and what they have on offer. They are either attending fashion shows or reading about them in newspapers and magazines and some of them even know the names of the designers, the choreographers and the models.
The older ladies, also known as ‘aunties,’ just wait around for new lawn collections to be announced and then make their most earnest efforts to be among the first to land at lawn exhibitions and lap up the new offerings, burdening their credit cards with the exorbitant costs.
These aunties are also seen at restaurants and in clubs holding ‘kitty’ parties. The idea of course is not to collect money and hand it over to one person every month but to get together to enjoy a heavy meal because, otherwise, they are supposed to be dieting and that is their ‘lifestyle’. The retired husbands are not welcome at such parties. The either play a game of bridge or go for a walk at the club. They also like to discuss politics and write letters to the editor of their favourite newspaper to share their ‘valuable’ views.
Eating out is another activity that determines one’s lifestyle. The weekend must be spent at a well-known restaurant so that one may talk about it when one meets friends. You can always post pictures of the eating-out experience and make others jealous. Depending on the age-group, again, the eating out can vary from a fast-food outlet to an ‘in’ restaurant where you have to wait outside or in the waiting area for quite some time before you get a table. But eat there you must.
Again, there is a whole chunk of the population, for example in Karachi, that sits outside on footpaths at such places as the commercial area near the Boating Basin. People belonging to the middle and lower-middle classes enjoy the experience with chicken tikka, Kata-Kat, seekh kebabs and the rest. This is their lifestyle. Another element of their lifestyle is that many families hire vans or use motorcycles and travel to the sea-front to enjoy the beach and the sea breeze. This happens with more intensity on weekends. There is no age limit in eating out at the Boating Basin or going to the beach as this is a cheap or even free form of entertainment for all citizens. But it does depict a lifestyle.
What also defines lifestyle is what class one belongs to, where they live, and how much they earn. Lifestyle does not necessarily have to be a fashion statement, but it depicts an individual by the way he or she lives, dresses up, eats and seeks entertainment as this provides the marketer the opportunity to pounce upon him or her at the slightest hint.