Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

Yang Jian
In a year dominated by post-pandemic recovery and AI influences, words and phrases embody dynamic, ever-changing aspects of life.
Yang Jian
Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

While walking along Suzhou Creek to gather material for my latest "Shanghai Expression" column, I mused on how Shanghai's modern skyline merges so effortlessly with some of the historical aspects of the area. The old and the new creating a unique ambience.

Near the creek, I encountered Uncle Chen, fishing in a tranquil spot.

"Nice day for fishing," I said in greeting him.

He looked up with a smile. "Yes, it's a break from the mobile phone world."

His response intrigued me. In a year dominated by digital and artificial intelligence worlds, his perspective struck a chord.

American publisher Merriam-Webster included "authentic" on its list of the year's top words. It reflects a growing focus on genuineness in an era dominated by AI, celebrity culture and social media.

As I talked with Uncle Chen, the bustle of the city continued around us. Food deliverymen buzzed past. Online celebrities in dopamine dresses held selfie sticks for livestreaming, highlighting the rise of a breed of "new professionals."

Tourists and locals alike meandered through the area, some engaged in what appeared to be a "citywalk" – wanderlust without a clear destination.

Office workers walked by holding fancy coffee cups, a sign of the evolving coffee trends that have swept the city, like the "Moutai-flavored latte."

Watching Uncle Chen, tourists, online celebrities, office workers and delivery people, I saw a changing city in a world of flux, encapsulated by an array of contemporary buzzwords.

As 2023 winds down, it's interesting to note that buzzwords aren't just words. Rather, they are markers of the dynamic, ever-changing aspects of life.

Each buzzword has its own story. Each popular phrase offers a peek into the hearts and minds of people, especially the younger generation. Let's pause to look at some of them more closely.

Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

Citizens on a citywalk take photos along the Huangpu River.

Mutual effort toward a common goal 双向奔赴

This term catapulted to fame during the high-profile November Sino-US summit in San Francisco, where President Xi Jinping laid out his vision of countries working toward mutual understanding and cooperation. It evolved from a phrase describing personal relationships to a diplomatic emblem of Sino-American efforts to find common ground.

Citywalk 城市漫步

Imagine ditching your GPS and strolling where traffic lights lead you. This TikTok-born trend has turned into a therapeutic escape, especially for youth.

Strolling through city streets without a set destination not only provides physical exercise but also serves to clear the mind, alleviate stress and contribute to a smaller carbon footprint.

The concept, which originated in London, emphasizes the exploration of ordinary neighborhoods over popular tourist spots. In this new approach to walking, you wander without a set path or destination, letting serendipity guide you.

Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

Young tourists at the Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village in China's southwestern Guizhou Province.

Commando-style tourism 特种兵式旅游

This is a travel style that's in stark contrast to a leisurely stroll. It is a concept of moving fast, cramming in sights, and spending less time and money. Sort of a budget-conscious James Bond on holiday.

The trend highlights the modern traveler's desire for efficient and immersive experiences. This term, originating from a military metaphor, showcases one aspect of the evolving tourism landscape. The quest for diverse and authentic experiences now prevails over leisurely, conventional vacations.

Companions 搭子

Think of having a buddy for movie-going, meals or a game of mahjong, with no strings attached. It's the perfect setup for a generation that's into commitment-free relationships.

This concept presents a new mode of social relationships, emphasizing casual, pressure-free connections. Originating as a term for card game partners, it now refers to fleeting companions for various activities, highlighting how modern relationships are increasingly defined by shared interests rather than by traditional bonds of friendship.

Introverts/Extroverts i人/e人

In 2023, the so-called MBTI test became a popular social tool among young people. Developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, this personality assessment tool is based on a theory of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and is widely used by businesses to evaluate employee personality traits and development.

The MBTI categorizes people as "I" for introverts – people who lose energy in social settings and are generally reserved -- and "E" for extroverts, who gain energy being around people and are typically outgoing.

This litmus test has become a key part of the social identity of many young people. They often use it as a means of self-expression, acceptance and finding common ground with others.

Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

Rong Bao, the mascot of Chengdu FISU World University Games, had become a superstar, dubbed a "noticeable bag" since its debut for its adorable design and "true" feelings.

Noticeable bags 显眼包

What began as a joking way to describe attention-seekers has turned into a proud symbol for those who are bold enough to stand out. It's like saying, "Yes, I'm wearing a bright, flashy suit at a funeral. So what?"

During a performance at the 2023 Chengdu Universiade this summer, the event's mascot, Rongbao, unexpectedly deflated at the climax of the show. After that, videos and photos of "Rongbao deflating" quickly spread across social media. Many netizens found humor in the situation, with comments describing Rongbao as a cute "noticeable bag" and praising its charm even while deflated. Some interpreted the incident as overexcitement on Rongbao's part.

New Professionals 新职人

Here's to the dreamers who turn hobbies into hustles. These are the folks who said no to the 9-to-5 grind and yes to passion projects. They're not just working; they're crafting a lifestyle. Think of a barista who is also a TikTok influencer or a coder who moonlights as a DJ.

About 100 new digital professions have been officially recognized in China, such as digital media artist and Internet marketing specialist.

A recent report shows that middle-aged and young adults are the main workforce in the short video and live-streaming sectors. These new digital professionals seek unique opportunities in the digital space.

Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

Dopamine dressing in bright colors gained popularity in 2023.

Dopamine 多巴胺

This is a buzzword that refers to anything that tickles the happy neurons. From dopamine dressing (bright, happy colors) to dopamine people (friends who are human sunbeams), it's all about chasing those feel-good vibes.

A tonic to counter the pervasive gloom and turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic, it is inspired by the 1980s, when people sought simplicity and brightness, leading to the rise of a dreamy, joyful and sweet "Barbie pink aesthetic."

Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

A young diner selects food at a community canteen designated mainly for the elderly in a local neighborhood.

Reverse Consumption Trend 蹭老式消费

Young folks are crashing the senior scene, joining elderly travel groups and attending classes at the senior university classes. It's millennials deciding to hang out with the boomer generation, inspired by both cost-saving and cross-generational cultural exchange.

For instance, in Shanghai, community cafeterias that once primarily served the elderly have become popular eateries for office workers and students. Long queues outside these canteens at noon attest to the new trend.

Young people are also opting to take longer, slower-paced tours typically designed for the elderly. They find these tours less socially demanding and free from the pressure to keep pace with others.

Some sociologists said they believe that the growing appreciation of young people for the lifestyle of older generations is leading them to become more rational consumers, moving away from the trend of conspicuous consumption.

Buzzwords capture how we dressed, thought, drank coffee and took holidays in 2023

Customers line up to buy Moutai-flavored latte at a local mall.

Moutai-flavored Latte 酱香拿铁

This creation, a blend of traditional Chinese liquor and modern coffee, symbolizes a blurring of generations and tastes. It's like your grandpa's favorite drink got a hipster makeover.

In September, Kweichow Moutai and Luckin Coffee released the Moutai-flavored latte, causing a buzz online and attracting young and middle-aged consumers.

The vintage liquor maker also collaborated with Dove to release alcohol-infused chocolates and with Mengniu Dairy to launch a series of alcohol-infused ice cream flavors that became a hit with Chinese consumers.

These products are part of a growing trend of luxury cross-brand collaboration in the coffee and tea markets, including popular earlier partnerships between Hey Tea and Fendi, and between Shanghai's Manner coffee and Louis Vuitton.

Special Reports