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China Food & Drinks

When White People Discovered China’s ‘White People Food’ Trend

A month after the ‘white people food’ trend first became popular, Chinese netizens reflect on how the trend gained international attention.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this month, the term ‘white people food’ (白人饭 báirénfàn) gained significant attention in English-language media after it became a trend on the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu.

“White people food” mainly refers to simple meals that are easy to prepare, prioritizing convenience over taste. Examples include crackers and cheese, celery with dip, boiled egg with cucumber, ham sandwiches, or pasta with tomatoes.

Mocking unappetizing, cold, and barely seasoned ‘white people food’ became popular among overseas Chinese posting photos on Xiaohongshu and others criticizing the bland lunchboxes brought to work by white colleagues.

Although the ‘white people food’ term itself is not new, it became particularly popular in late May of 2023 when a Chinese netizen posted a video of a white woman in Switzerland preparing her lunch on a train with just lettuce and ham.

The video symbolized the significant cultural differences between China and many Western countries, particularly in terms of food and lunch habits. A typical office lunch box consisting of bread, cheese, fruit, and a granola bar is not considered a ‘real’ meal by many Chinese — they argue it lacks warmth, spices, ginger, garlic, rice, noodles, veggies, etc.

As a response to the trend, an online challenge emerged where people attempted to recreate their own version of a white people lunch. This mini-trend caught the attention of English-language media outlets, including Buzzfeed, after a viral tweet by Ya Fan (@yanarchy) went viral.

Not all Chinese social media users criticize the quick and uninspiring lunch style commonly seen in the West. What started as a trend to ridicule the food eventually took on a positive note, with many young Chinese professionals praising the simplicity and convenience of these meals.

For busy office workers, preparing a homemade lunch and sitting down for a larger, warm meal can be time-consuming. Opting for a sandwich or salad is quick, efficient, and leaves more time and energy after lunch or at the end of a workday.

One Xiaohongshu user wrote about her salad with mozzarella, nuts, berries, and ham, stating, “After work, this can be prepared in just three minutes, no need to wait, it can be finished extremely quickly.”

Hashtag “White people food is really not bad at all.”

In this sense, ‘white people food’ also aligns with the concept of a ‘worker’s lunch’ (打工人午餐).

The phrase and hashtag “White people food is also food” (#白人饭也是饭) emerged in response to this trend. It carries a pun that references the Chinese translation of “Black Lives Matter” (“Black people’s lives are also lives 黑人的命也是命”) and the controversial phrase “White Lives Matter,” which gained attention in the context of the BLM movement and further garnered attention in China and beyond when Kanye West wore a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt (translated as “White people’s lives are also lives 白人的命也是命”).

The notion that “White people food is also food” is not solely sarcastic, as some social media users interpret it in a different light. They express a preference for incorporating these simple meals into their daily diet, not just due to a busy work schedule, but also because it aligns with a lifestyle that involves consuming smaller meals, exercising, and trying out new things.

 
“They discovered the white people food trend”
 

Now that the trend has extended beyond Xiaohongshu to foreign platforms, this very aspect has sparked further online discussions.

Chinese media outlet Phoenix News has also gathered opinions and comments from foreign users on social media regarding this trend, with the majority of them finding the trend amusing and humorous. They titled their post “The White People Food Popular Among Chinese Young People Has Been Discovered by White People” (“中国年轻人流行“白人饭”,被白人发现了”), hashtagged “White people food has been discovered by white people” (#白人饭被白人发现了#).

Although many Chinese netizens find it funny that the Chinese trend of eating style has gained popularity overseas, there are still those who question whether Western people truly enjoy this way of eating.

“It’s really how it is,” one Xiaohongshu user wrote. “I remember the first time my ‘homestay mom’ prepared lunch for me [as an exchange student]. When she gave me a ham sandwich, I thought she was teasing me, but later I found out that the entire family ate like this. It’s important to note that they were actually a Black family.”

Meanwhile, on TikTok (the foreign version), another trend called ‘Girl Dinner’ is gaining momentum. This trend refers to simple dinner plates featuring ingredients like cheese, cucumber, ham, pickles, olives, and other items. Although they are not labeled as such, these plates align with what is called ‘White People Food’ on Chinese social media. Many TikTok users praise these meals for their simplicity and view them as a form of luxury and indulgence.

“Girl Dinner” on Tiktok is just like “White People Food” on Xiaohongshu.

For many Chinese individuals, the latest ‘White People Food’ trend may be a convenient way to eat, but they do not perceive it as a form of indulgence. “White people food is truly magical. Just four pieces of sliced bread with some veggies, fruits, and meat sauce, and I already feel full after eating two. I have white people food for lunch every day to save time, but it doesn’t bring me any joy. It’s merely a survival-oriented way of eating.”

 
By Manya Koetse 

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©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Food & Drinks

Chinese Woman with Heartbreak Passes Away after Drinking Bottle of Baijiu

Three friends are held partially responsible for not intervening when the woman consumed 500ml of baijiu.

Manya Koetse

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An incident that happened on the night of May 21, 2023, has become a trending topic on Chinese social media today after a local court examined the case.

A woman named ‘Xiao Qiu’ (alias), a resident of Jiangxi’s Nanchang, apparently attempted to drink her sorrows away after a heartbreaking breakup.

She spent the night at a friend’s house, where she drank about 50cl of baijiu (白酒), a popular Chinese spirit distilled from fermented sorghum that contains between 35% and 60% alcohol. One entire bottle of baijiu, such as Moutai, is usually 50cl.

She was together with three female friends. One of them also consumed baijiu, although not as much, and the two other friends did not drink at all.

As reported by Jiupai News, the intoxicated Xiao Qu ended up sleeping in her car, while one of her sober friends stayed with her. However, at about 5 AM, her friend discovered that Xiao Qiu was no longer breathing. Just about an hour later, she was declared dead at the local Emergency Center. The cause of death was ruled as cardiac and respiratory failure due to alcohol poisoning.

The court found that Xiao Qu’s friends were partly responsible for her death, citing their failure to prevent her excessive drinking and inadequate assistance following her baijiu binge drink session. Each friend was directed to contribute to the compensation for medical expenses and pain and suffering incurred by Qiu’s family.

The friend who also consumed baijiu was assigned a 6% compensation responsibility, while the other two were assigned 3% each.

On Weibo, many commenters do not agree with the court’s decision, asserting that adult individuals should not be held accountable when a friend goes on a drinking spree. Some commenters wrote: “You can tell someone not to drink, but what if they don’t listen?” “Should we record ourselves telling friends not to drink too much from now on?”

This is not the first time for friends to be held liable for an alcohol-related death in China. In 2018, multiple stories went viral involving people who died after excessive drinking at social gatherings.

One case involved a 30-year-old Chinese man who was found dead in his hotel room bathtub in Yangzhou after a formal dinner with friends where he allegedly drank heavily. The man reportedly died of a heart attack. His friends reached a 1 million yuan (±US$157,000) settlement with his family, with the cost shared among the friends who were present during the night.

Surveillance cameras in Jinhua captured how the man was unable to stand or walk after drinking with his friends.

Another case involved a man who died when he was left by his friends at a hotel in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, after heavily drinking at a banquet. Surveillance cameras captured how the man was unable to stand or walk after drinking with his friends. Those friends also paid a compensation together of 610,000 yuan (US$96,000) to the man’s family.

Organisers of an alcohol drinking contest in Henan province were also ordered to pay a compensation of over US$70,000 after one participant died due to excessive alcohol intake in July of 2017.

These cases also triggered online discussions about how Chinese traditional drinking culture often encourages people at the table to drink as much as they can or to exceed their limits; the goal sometimes is to literally “take someone to the ground by drinking.” When someone proposes a toast, everyone at the table is required to finish their glasses, sometimes at a very high pace.

In light of the latest news, some commenters write on Weibo: “No matter what kind of drinking gathering it is, for someone who is already drunk, others should intervene to prevent them from continuing to drink. Even if they invite, provoke, or insist on drinking themselves, they should not be allowed to continue. Otherwise, it not only harms them, you might end up facing legal responsibility yourself.”

Others remind people that overindulging in alcohol when you’re in a state of distress is never a good idea, and that no heartbreak is worth getting drunk over: “There are plenty of other fish in the sea.”

By Manya Koetse

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Brands, Marketing & Consumers

Tsingtao Brewery ‘Pee-Gate’: Factory Worker Caught Urinating in Raw Material Warehouse

The pee incident, that occurred at a subsidiary Tsingtao Beer factory, has caused concerns among consumers.

Manya Koetse

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A video that has circulated on Chinese social media since October 19 shows how an alleged worker at a Tsingtao Beer factory climbs over a wall at the raw material production site and starts to urinate.

The incident reportedly occurred at the Tsingtao Beer Factory No. 3, a subsidiary of the Tsingtao Brewing Company, located in Qingdao, Shandong.

After the video went viral, the Tsingtao Brewery Company issued a statement that they took the incident very seriously and immediately report it to the authorities, who have started an investigation into the case. Meanwhile, the specific batch in production has been halted and shut off.

The incident has caused concern among consumers, and some commenters on social media wonder if this was the first time something like this has happened. “How do we know this hasn’t happened many times before?”

Others speculate about what might have motivated the man to urinate at the production site. There are those who believe that the man is part of an undercover operation orchestrated by a rivaling company, aimed at discrediting Tsingtao. It’s even suggested that there were two ‘moles’ leaking in this incident: one doing the urinating, and the other doing the video ‘leak.’

Meanwhile, there are voices who are critical of Tsingtao, suggesting that the renowned beer brand has not effectively addressed the ‘pee gate’ scandal. It remains uncertain how this incident will impact the brand, but some netizens are already expressing reservations about ordering a Tsingtao beer as a result.

But there are also those who joke about the “pissing incident,” wondering if Tsingtao Beer might soon launch a special “urine flavored beer.”

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Featured photo by Jay Ang (link).

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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