On April 8, Wuhan, the city in China that took the hardest hit from the Covid-19 pandemic, reopened. Like Wuhan, other cities in China are finally recovering from “the long harsh winter.” Everyone is still being careful, but spring is definitely in the air.
(comic of Wuhan’s recovery, where each province is represented by its speciality food)
Shops and restaurants are reopening, and cheerful chatter is slowly filling the streets. The content of many vloggers has changed from “A Day at Home” to “Spend A Day with Me: Shopping Out with Friends.” The debate over what to cook with the remaining potato in the fridge was gone. People now debated over which restaurant to try out.
Many young Chinese people chose to reunite with their friends over some good food. Of course, people in different regions of China all have different food preferences. But if there are a few choices young people all over China can agree on, they’re these three:
1 海底捞 (hǎi dǐ lāo)
Hai Di Lao is a hotpot franchise founded back in 1994, when its first store opened in Schezwan province. In recent years, Hai Di Lao has taken over China’s hotpot industry like a storm. New sites are popping up all over the country. Its popularity is further confirmed by the massive lines waiting outside the store. Hour-long waits are a regular thing, and this is where Hao Di Lao’s secret weapon comes in.
Feeling bored while waiting in line? No problem: the restaurant provides free drinks, snacks, and games. You can also get free manicures, shoe-shining or phone maintenance services.
Once you’re finally inside, you might feel a bit irritated about the long wait. But then you will meet the nicest and most helpful waiters and waitresses you’ve ever had in your life. Hao Di Lao once made it onto the Weibo “Hot Topics” list because one of the waiters was patiently helping an elementary school customer with math homework.
If you order Hao Di Lao’s signature lo mein, you can expect a performance like this one:
If that still isn’t enough, here’s another treat. Hao Di Lao also does 变脸(biàn liǎn, facing-changing) performances, a part of Schezwan opera.
The unique and exquisite service, even more than the food itself, has won Hao Di Lao a large group of loyal customers. Consumers are sharing their experiences and recommendations, generating a lot of buzz. That’s why Hao Di Lao is the hottest hotpot restaurant in China. So this is where young people gather.
2 喜茶 (xǐ chá “HEYTEA”)
HEYTEA, originally named ROYALTEA, was founded in 2012 and is one of the most popular milk tea franchises in China today. It offers a great variety of drinks, including regular boba milk tea, signature fruity drinks and seasonal drinks (and pastries too). It’s not all hype, their drinks really do taste amazing.
In recent years, HEYTEA has become so worshipped that any city with a HEYTEA shop is a must-see tourist attraction. Lines can be long and the wait time varies from one to three hours. But even three hours in a line can’t dampen people’s enthusiasm. If you ask what people missed most while on quarantine, many might say going out for a cup of HEYTEA.
Drinking milk tea has become a common national pastime among young people. Maybe it’s because milk tea is delicious. But maybe it is also because other people are drinking it. Social media has certainly played an important role. Most notably the rising “internet celebrity culture” (网红文化wǎng hóng wén huà) shows influencers posting photos and thoughts of their favorite products, which include, of course, milk tea. Followers join in as well, and the hype has resulted in the crazy popularity of HEYTEA.
Simply put, drinking HEYTEA is hip!
3 Outdoor Picnics
Outdoor picnics weren’t always popular in China, especially among young people. For most, the only experiences with picnics come from elementary school field trips. Yet picnics have become very popular among young people in China, post-quarantine. Many social media platforms, like WeChat, Weibo and RED, are all full of picnic pictures and posts. Internet influence definitely plays a part here: a good picture is half of the picnic itself.
Moreover, from friends I’ve asked, having a picnic is the perfect way to bask under the sun outside. For them, this is something they haven’t been able to do for a long time. One friend said that she used to be so worried about getting sunburned outdoors, but quarantine has changed her perspective. Another said that the air has gotten fresher due to two months of everyone staying inside. So it is nice to sit in nature now and breathe it all in. Moreover, picnics let you socialize with your friends while maintaining a healthy distance from others.
After being cooped up inside for such a long time, many people are jumping at the opportunity to finally dress up and see their friends. They’re putting on their fanciest clothes and updating their photo album. No more old boring selfies inside their room in their pjs. Now they're ready to fill it with spring photos under the sun.
And of course, the weather is wonderful. Happy spring!