Judging by the eye-watering, nose-stinging ambience of the void deck these days, I gather it’s, once again, the Chinese 7th month, more popularly known as Hungry Ghost Festival.
But mention “Hungry Ghost Festival” to anyone under 30 in Singapore, and you’re likely to get the same blank look as if you’d mentioned “MSN Messenger” or “The Pyramid Game”.
Unfortunately, Hungry Ghost Festival has gone the way of Singapore’s longstanding telcos and banks — it’s completely out of touch. No wonder kim zua (hell money) shops are rapidly going out of business.
All is not lost, though. With a well-timed revamp of its core products, kim zua companies could very well do a Singtel and Starhub and become more appealing to a new generation of customers.
Here are 7 revamped kim zua that will make it into your IG stories (or should I say, Die-G stories?).
Hell money → carbon credits
The most common type of kim zua is money in shapes and sizes: Huge-ass gold coins, thicc stacks of banknotes, even freaking gold taels (what is this, a period drama?).
Honestly, it’s pretty damn embarrassing that Chinese people care so much about money that they even want it in the afterlife.
In any case, it is known that millennials don’t care about money-money. I mean, we may #neverstophustling, but that’s because we truly believe that we can change the world through our work. (And also we really love to “do what we love”.)
I propose that kim zua makers update their hell money for the modern age by changing it to something that aligns better with millennial values, such as carbon offset credits.
Which millennial doesn’t want to save the earth, right? Plus this whole hell-bonfire thing probably generates a whole lot of carbon emissions.
Cigarettes & beer → acai bowl
While your deceased great-grandparents may have “requested” their favourite Marlboro cigarettes and Tiger beer from the afterlife, no self-respecting dead millennial would do that.
I mean, your body is a temple, even in death! Don’t desecrate it, man.
Instead, the analogous kim zua for millennials should take the form of healthy indulgences, such as acai bowls.
Delicious and wholesome as they are, with acai bowls costing as much as $15 in the living world, they’re not exactly something you can partake of daily.
It’s probable that most of us would die before ever getting our fill of it. So please, send over some aesthetically-pleasing treats in the afterlife, okay?
Rolex → Yeezys
When it comes to personal accessories, a flashy gold Rolex watch definitely falls under the “yucky” category for most Singaporeans under 30.
Why would you want to wear a tacky piece of bling like that?
On the other hand, there’s nothing gauche at all about donning a pair of Yeezy Boost 350 V2 “Synth”, even though they’re basically a $700 pair of oversized marshmallows.
Pretty sure most of the kids in this crowd would want to continue getting status sneakers in the afterlife.
Mercedes Benz → vintage bicycle
Owning flashy European cars like Mercedes and BMWs is one of those things that are simply not done by anyone under 30 these days, unless they’re one of those Top Salespeople-type insurance agents.
At least I think so, judging by the number of millennials who have hit Platinum level membership on GrabRewards.
On the other hand, a cruiser-style granny bike is the perfect mix of “Scandi-chic feels” and “hopelessly impractical IRL”.
It has zero carbon footprint and looks really pretty leaning against a wall, surrounded by houseplants. And in the afterlife, you won’t break a sweat, so you can actually ride it for once.
Bungalow → co-living space
For the more well-off deceased, it’s a must to burn a miniature hell bungalow, complete with maid(s) to keep it clean of ash and afterlife-dust.
But which millennial would want to own and live in a big bungalow all alone?
We’d rather keep things cosy and social at a “co-living space” like Lyf serviced apartments, preferably a loft unit with a gorgeous view.
Not only would it be beautifully decorated in the “tasteful industrial” style, exactly like every cafe you’ve been to, housekeeping is handled discreetly as part of the package so you don’t have to have a live-in servant, which is just weird and probably against the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Plus there are drinks and an acoustic jam session on the rooftop every Thursday — it’s like the startup life never ends.
Mahjong table → air-purifying houseplants
While our Chinese relatives splurge on paper mahjong tables so that our beloved ancestors won’t get bored in the afterlife, millennials totally eschew gambling in general (cryptocurrency doesn’t count).
To my descendants, please, skip the tacky mahjong set and burn me some air-purifying houseplants instead.
I will probably die before ever coaxing my monstera, fiddle leaf fig and snake plants to bloom into actual Instagrammable levels — something about plants not actually liking being indoors and in pots? — so the afterlife is my only chance to live in a “jungalow”.
Time goes by slowly in the afterlife, and I’d rather spend it tending to my plants than playing ching-chong gambling games.
Roast meat → Impossible Burger
It’s customary for people to leave food offerings for their ancestors along with burning material goods, because, as the name of the festival suggests, dem ghosts be hungry.
Typically, it’s a styrofoam box of roast pork, duck or chicken, but that’s hardly going to cut it for dead millennials.
Roast meats may have been the height of luxury in the distant past, but it’s not gonna impress a generation of jaded tastebuds who’ve grown up with poke bowls, wagyu steak and Michelin-starred ramen.
These days, the only acceptable substitute is an Impossible Burger, because tasting meat while not actually eating meat is cool. Where else would you get such a pure marriage of food and tech? That’s why Three Buns / Potato Head is always crowded.
Also, could you also make sure that it’s packed in a sustainable recycled-PET wrapper, and I’d like to request no straw for my Coke, please. Thanks.
Apple products → ?
Apple products are the only kim zua that doesn’t need to be updated for the next generation of the dead.
What presents do you want when you’re dead and gone? Tell us in the comments.
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