Expert Insights

Expressions of Consumerism in China

By: Raeka Bao, Connector, Shanghai
Miki Lai, Explorer, Shanghai
Sherley Sun, Catalyst, Shanghai

In China, we explore, research and buy things within the palm of our hands every day. We talk about the things that we desire, share what we buy and associate it with our identities in society. These kind of conversations of consumerism are evolving and becoming more prevalent with the emergence of trendy Chinese phrases used to specifically describe the state of mind when we are consuming a brand, product or service.

These phrases are common in conversations among young consumers in China; walk through any GolinMagic office, and you’ll definitely hear them. What’s truly fascinating is that these cultural phrases are changing how we plan our content and drive brand conversations.

Here’s a sample sentence that encompasses some of the most popular expressions of consumerism, and the English literal translation:



If you have achieved “cherry freedom,” you can take any “grass grown” by your bestie. Whether it is “harvesting a grass grown” on any “internet celebrity” food or “punching your card” in “internet celebrity” restaurants, you don’t need to worry about “eating dirt” after the consumption.

So, what do the phrases actually mean?

Cherry Freedom  (车厘子自由 chē lí zǐ zì yóu)

A status of financial freedom, meaning that a person can comfortably afford to buy expensive, imported cherries. During the 2019 Chinese New Year, the phrase “cherry freedom” was one of the trending topics on social media, as during this festive season, many Chinese consumers were buying imported cherries from the cities they work in, and bringing them back home to share with their families and friends, as a way of showcasing their success.

Grow Grass (种草 zhòng cǎo)

“Growing Grass” on someone’s mind means having one’s appetite whetted for fancy new goods. Together with “harvesting the grass grown”, these are two of the most commonly mentioned keywords in the user-generated-content driven e-commerce app, Xiaohongshu (AKA Little Red Book or RED). 

Harvest the Grass Grown (拔草 bá cǎo)

Corresponding to “growing grass,” “harvesting the grass grown” is an action of splurging on a new purchase after being encouraged by a friend. Often heard around the halls of Golin Shanghai: “I finally ‘harvested the grass grown’ of this limited-edition lipstick.”

Internet Celebrity (网红 wǎng hóng) 

Originally meant to describe celebrity influencers, the term “internet celebrity” is now used to describe a trending product or experience. During lunch at GolinMagic, you’ll find teams ordering takeout to try different food together.

Punch Your Card In (打卡dǎ kǎ)

When a person says that they “punched their card” somewhere, it usually indicates that the place is unique and not easily accessible. To ‘punch your card in’ is to share a sense of pride for having the connections, availability or patience to get an experience that’s limited to few.

Eat Dirt (吃土chī tǔ)

Ever “harvest the grass grown” carelessly? You may be need to “eat dirt.” A statement to describe that a person is broke because they overspent. For example, a person may share an expensive gift they bought in their WeChat moments, and quote that they’ll need to “eat dirt” for the foreseeable future.

As PR pros, knowing the language of consumerism is key to what we do every day. This enables us to better research and understand what the latest trending consumer behaviors, products and experiences are is trending. Interested to learn more? Scan our QR code below to follow us on WeChat!