What ‘wild-eating,’ ‘vanlife’ trends reveal about China’s Gen Z

    China’s Gen Z finds solace in ‘wild-eating’ and ‘vanlife’ trends, prioritizing personal well-being over traditional work culture. Opportunities emerge for outdoor brands.
    Young netizens share tips on how to wild-eat on Xiaohongshu. Image: Hujiang / Xiaohongshu.
      Published   in Lifestyle

    What happened

    A lifestyle trend called “wild-eating” is gaining popularity on Chinese social media.

    Derived from the outdoor community and particularly popular among young Chinese seeking a sense of freedom and relaxation, it involves dining in natural settings and embracing primitive pleasures.

    The goal is simple: eat in the open air.

    On Xiaohongshu there are over 9,000 posts related to “wild-eating,” and the related hashtag has garnered over 76 million views. These posts range from individuals sharing their wild-eating experiences to tips on the best outdoor spots for lunch.

    The ‘wild-eating’ and ‘vanlife’ trends are indicative of a growing desire to escape the confines of society. Image: Xiaohongshu
    The ‘wild-eating’ and ‘vanlife’ trends are indicative of a growing desire to escape the confines of society. Image: Xiaohongshu

    Wild-eating is intertwined with another rising lifestyle trend, vanlife, which comprises an unconventional lifestyle of living in van or similar motor vehicle

    Many people are combining their wild-eating experiences with RV living, creating a mobile and flexible lifestyle. The hashtag “RV life” (房车生活) has around 350,000 posts and 870 million views on Xiaohongshu, indicating the huge popularity of the lifestyle.

    The Jing Take

    To some cynics, wild-eating is just a newly coined term that is synonymous with picnics and was created by young people to sound different.

    Defenders argue that wild-eating prioritizes simplicity and spontaneity. Picnicking usually refers to eating food during an excursion to a scenic location. Whereas, a Shanghai office worker eating their lunch in the park counts as wild-eating.

    “A picnic feels more refined, while wild-eating is about releasing your wild side and eating like an animal,” Xiaohongshu user Beifangdelang (北方的狼) wrote online.

    These trends, along with other recent viral fads like “citywalk” and “20-minute park effect,” reflect a growing sense of escapism among Chinese young people burned by intense working conditions in China.

    “Stepping out of the house, having some food, feeling the breeze, and daydreaming – my heart, just like a balloon, becomes full,” Xiaohongshu user Mianbaochaoren (面包超人) commented.

    The popularity of wild-eating and vanlife indicates that China’s youngsters are yearning for relaxation, relief from life’s pressures, and the outdoors, posing opportunities for outdoor and wellness brands.

    These trends point to a mental shift among young consumers towards valuing leisure and personal well-being in the face of demanding work environments. This shift will likely influence other aspects of life and consumer behaviors in China.

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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