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Do international students live in luxury, or is that a stereotype?

Do international students in the UK live a life surrounded by designer brands, jewellery and ostentatious displays of their wealth?

Is the image of a wealthy international student holding designer bags an accurate one? Photo: Pexels

One student claimed Chinese students face racism related to their perceived wealth.

That’s what a series of ‘memes’ posted on Twitter have suggested.


This extravagant Chanel-branded takeaway container of noodles made from Yves-Saint Laurent chains was shared more than 8,000 times on the social network, alongside comments such as “what international students have for lunch”.

“It’s based upon and perpetrates a set of stereotypes that are far from harmless”

Other posts took a critical look at what mobile students might eat for breakfast, presumably while their UK-domiciled student colleagues ate weetabix or cornflakes.


Alongside these clearly edited images, some images of real products did show up, like this designer-labelled lid for a popular high-end bottled water.

A quick internet search reveals that such a product is not listed on the Louis Vuitton website, however.

“We can’t disguise the fact that kids need a lot of money to come and study in the UK”

Although the pictures and posts were tongue-in-cheek, UKCISA CEO Dominic Scott told the BBC it is true that it is expensive to study in the UK.

“We can’t disguise the fact that kids need a lot of money to come and study in the UK,” he said. He added that this does not mean those students are rich, as many use family savings or investments to finance their period of study.

“But the truth is that the vast majority of the 400,000 international students in the UK struggle to get enough money to come and fulfil their dreams.”

And many students, international or not, came to this same conclusion and made the point themselves on Twitter.

Natalie Faulkner, a leftwing political activist, argued that this view is only representative of a small number of students, while many more benefit from financial aid.

One student claimed that this joke is actually the tip of a more serious iceberg, as Chinese students face racism related to their perceived wealth.

International officer at the UK’s National Union of Students, Yingbo Yu, told The PIE News that although it is only a joke, it perpetuates existing stereotypes, which poses dangers for the international community at UK HEIs.

Firstly, this is a joke and should be taken as such. Nevertheless, it’s based upon and perpetrates a set of stereotypes that are far from harmless – and more importantly, do not reflect the experiences of the majority of international students studying in the UK,” he said. 

“Many international students are forced to make considerable personal sacrifices just to turn up at enrolment – particularly those who happen to be refugees or asylum seekers. It is important that we pause for reflection with these kind of jokes and consider the ideas behind them – and to recognise that some of these stereotypes and myths can make studying in the UK just that little bit harder,” he added. 

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