A Frugal Nation – Are You A Member of This New Chinese Group?

In China, a new kind of “族 (zú)” is emerging. The word “族 (zú)” is usually used to mean “ethnicity,” which is “民族 (mínzú),” and “race,” which is “种族 (zhǒngzú).” Though there are 56 ethnic groups in China, if we were to say a new “族 (zú)” is being added, would that mean that there are now 57 ethnicities instead of 56? Let’s take a look at the following conversation and see if you can find this new “族 (zú).”

          Míngtiān Lucy lái zánmen jiā.
Kate:明天       Lucy 来    咱们   家。

          Lucy’s coming over tomorrow.

          Hǎo a! Wǒmen qǐng tā chīfàn.
Matt:好   啊!我们     请   她  吃饭。

          Great! Let’s treat her to dinner.

          Qù nǎli chī?
Kate:去 哪里 吃?

          Where should we go?

          Zài jiā chī ba.
Matt:在  家  吃 吧。

          Let’s eat at home.

           Nǐ tài kōu le.
Kate:你 太  抠  了。

          You’re so stingy.

          Wǒ shì kùkōuzú ma.
Matt:我   是   酷抠族   嘛。

          No, I’m frugal.

For many young Chinese, it’s considered stingy to cook at home rather than go out when entertaining guests. If you have the means, why not splurge every now and then? With that said, those who are careful with their money, like Matt in the conversation, are rapidly increasing their numbers across China. Matt is a member of the newest “族 (zú)” called “酷抠族 (kùkōuzú).” Let’s break this term down to its separate parts. First, “酷 (kù)” is the transliteration of English word “cool,” here it helps to add a positive connotation. The next word, “抠 (kōu)” colloquially means “stingy.” Last, “族 (zú)” doesn’t mean “race” or “ethnicity” here but instead “group.” When put all together, “酷抠族 (kùkōuzú)” means someone frugal by choice rather than necessity.

“酷抠族 (kùkōuzú)” is a growing group, mostly made up of well-educated people who want to pursue a simple life. It’s a positive term (they aren’t money-grubbers or misers). Instead of spending money on things they don’t need, “酷抠族 (kùkōuzú)” spend their left-over cash on meaningful endeavors, such as charity, traveling, or furthering their education.

Conversely, there is another “族 (zú)” who do just the opposite. We call this group “月光族 (yuèguāngzú).” “月 (yuè)” means “month” and “光 (guāng)” means “to use up.” Therefore, “月光族 (yuèguāngzú)” are those living paycheck-to-paycheck. People in this group are also well-educated, but prefer pursuing more material pleasures.

Two different “族 (zú),” which kind are you? Perhaps you’re neither or somewhere between. Regardless, “族 (zú)” is a commonly used word when talking about different types of people. Let’s take a look at some examples.


(kěnlǎozú): Not in Education, Employment or training (NEET).


(zhuīxīngzú): A groupie.


(shàngbānzú): Office workers.


(qióngmángzú): Working poor.

So many “族 (zú).” But if you were still wondering, there are still just 56 nationalities in China. The word “族 (zú)” as used above denotes groups of people who carry similar features, but not necessarily nationality or ethnic group. For the usage of “族 (zú)” meaning “ethnicity,” simply put the word “族(zú)” after their specific name, such as 汉族 (hànzú, Han Chinese), 满族 (mǎnzú, Manchu), and 回族 (huízú, the Hui people).


      Nǐ shì nǎ zú rén?
A:你  是  哪 族 人?

      What is your ethnicity?

     Wǒ shì Hànzú rén.
B:我    是   汉族  人。

      I’m Han Chinese.

You can use “族 (zú)” to talk about your ethnicity, or you can use it to talk about a group you belong to. New buzzwords with 族 (zú) are showing up all the time, so if you’re interested, check online to find all the types of “族 (zú)” that the world has to offer.


1. What’s the meaning of “酷抠族 (kùkōuzú)?”____

A. People who are very cool.

B. People who are careful with their money.

C. People who spend all their earnings each month.

2. What does the sentence “我是回族人。(Wǒ shì huízú rén.)” mean in Chinese?_____

A. I’m of the Hui people.

B.  I am going home.

C.  I’m very frugal.


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