Purpose – Collectivism in service research is so bound withAsian cultures as to risk being overly deterministic. Contesting this stereotype, this paper surfaces the individualistic consumption facets of consumers within a collectivist cultural setting, describing the compensating role servicescapes may play and the service marketing opportunities they present.
Design/methodology/approach – Within a Chinese cultural research frame, a qualitative grounded approach is adopted that surfaces subconscious metaphors of private consumption through photo elicitation, deep psychological metaphor elicitation and triangulated with field observation.
Findings – Individuals within a collectivist culture do actively seek private psychic space to regenerate the self and prepare for social obligations heavily influenced by Confucian norms. Servicescapes play an important role in private consumption as they provide both a physical and mental oasis of privacy not easily obtainable in regular life and work.
Practical implications – Service providers could offer East Asian consumers a package that includes the individual aspect of their value system,whenever and however they see suitable.More specifically, servicescapes can be designed to provide services that facilitate consumer restoration by implementing the mental metaphors consumers of have this process.
Social implications – A stereotype of a consumption has grown around Chinese consumers that while not totally false, misses a vital aspect of human values and risks missing profitable market niches. Consideration of the whole person’s collective-individualistic cycle benefits both the consumer and the business.
Originality/value – Moving beyond a one-dimensional description of East Asian consumer behavior, focused on collective values, we show the key role servicescapes play in private consumption. A psychological renewal of the self, in preparation to re-enter the collective, show the multiple aspects of Asian consumers.