Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe. If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.
Survey Topic of the Week: Coffee
Given that I usually stream in the morning with mug in hand, the subject of hot beverages comes up a lot. I try to switch between coffee and tea to avoid falling into the “Taylor always does XYZ” trap, but at the end of the day, there’s very little I can do to push back on the “foreigners love coffee and hate tea” thing.
To be fair, it’s a stereotype we tend to perpetuate
And sure, there’s no question that coffee is more popular in America than China; as I understand it, Starbucks only really ended up taking off here when they figured out that people wanted to be seen in the famous Western café and made them much more work-and-meeting-friendly (more space, nicer seating, etc).
But I’ve always wondered how true the whole “Chinese people don’t like coffee” thing really is. I know Chinese kids are all told they don’t (that is, aren’t supposed to) like it, but… that makes no sense. Consider the following reasonably indisputable truths about China:
- Drinking hot water is totally normal — even in the summer.
- It’s historically famous for producing a plant-based hot beverage.
- Sweet foods and drinks are NOT a big part of the cuisine, but the bitter flavor is.
- The very concept of working hard and being strong is regularly tied to the word 苦 (bitter). See 辛苦, 吃苦, etc.
- The Chinese education system requires you to take one of the most famously difficult and preparation-intensive tests in human history — all-nighters are basically a necessity.
- Adults tend to work long hours and take even fewer vacation days than Americans — the idea of closing up shop on the weekends is definitely NOT the norm.
So… I mean, really? Y’all don’t like coffee? Yeah, I get it; it’s a foreign (in every sense of the word) drink and you’ve already got a delicious hot beverage everyone and their cat has been drinking for a thousand (sorry, five thousand) years, but come on. China and coffee were made for each other!
We literally make coffee cups of out a substance we named “China”
To that end, I asked the audience to answer a three-option survey re: coffee in the hopes of disproving the stereotype:
1: You regularly drink coffee by yourself at home specifically because you like it or want the caffeine.
2: You go to cafes and sometimes drink coffee but it’s more about working/socializing than the actual coffee.
3: You don’t drink coffee at all.
Results: Sadly, it wasn’t even close… 3’s as far as the eye could see. I was hoping for a good number of 2’s, but to be honest, the order went 3 (at least 75%), 1 (probably 20%), and then 2 (hardly any).
I still haven’t figured out how to effectively screenshot, filter out repeat answers, etc — so don’t go using my results in your academic studies just yet. But true or not (and/or logical or not), most of the audience wanted me to know that they were firmly in the anti-coffee camp.
Audience Insight of the Week:
There are too many good-looking people, too little soul.
Not sure Yingke — an app whose mission statement is basically “HEY COME STARE AT MY BEAUTIFUL FACE” is the place to fight that trend, but keep speaking truths, I suppose.
Comment of the Week:
You are too verbose
Video of the Week:
This cat being better than me at 跳一跳
I’m well aware that this might be fake (as in, a pre-recorded video of the game with the cat being convinced to move its paw with off-screen treats or something like that), but it gave me a hearty chuckle regardless. (If you’re having VPN issues catch the GIF version here.)
Mostly, it stood out to me because this simple game — 跳一跳 (jump jump) — has in the past few months sucked up several human lifetimes worth of free time from innocent victims like myself. The concept is pretty simple; press and hold to charge a jump, then let go and try to get the little bouncy guy over the to the next platform.
For whatever reason, it’s one of the most addictive things I’ve ever experienced. A friend — or at least, a former friend — forwarded it me and told me that I was about to lose the next three days of my life. I should have listened.
Weird Thing People Keep Asking:
Do you “fix” your eyebrows?
For a while, I thought that perhaps eyebrow-grooming was a staple of Chinese culture that I had somehow totally missed, and that my unkempt sarcasm-indicators were repulsing people. Then I realized that I had it backwards — apparently, a whole lot of Chinese women are pretty unhappy with the male eyebrow situation (i.e. unwillingness to prevent unibrows), and the incredibly low bar to which I hold myself in that department is seemingly impressing them.
(The amount of time I spend arching one eyebrow in response to strange questions is probably a factor as well.)
Of course, there’s nothing China-specific about women being irritated about grooming double standards — but as I’ve mentioned before, China’s specific unrealistic beauty standards kind of tend towards the whole childlike porcelain doll look — so eyebrows, nails, and makeup are extra important. On top of that, the modern image of attractive Chinese guys (小鲜肉, explained here) is much more about sharp features and careful grooming than big hairy lumberjack types.
Take note, legions of young Chinese men trying to get married. Finding a mate might just be a few painful plucks away.