West's 'Lunch of Suffering' Is Going Viral in China

Images of plain, Western-style lunches are popular, either in ridicule or admiration
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2023 5:30 AM CDT
West's 'Lunch of Suffering' Is Going Viral in China
   (Getty Images / Olgna)

A trend has emerged on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and Xiaohongshu—users re-creating and reviewing Western-style packed lunches. The Guardian reports these lunches are called "bairen fan," or "white people food." The trend appears to be a way to understand or, often, satirize the plainness of the meals, with many social posts coming from Chinese international students surprised by the simplicity of lunches consumed by their overseas peers. Think processed cheese, ham, crackers, cold sandwiches, raw carrots or other vegetables, tuna, etc.

Reactions have been mixed. Some think it's funny and relatable. Others find it to be disrespectful or insensitive. In general, however, the meme has sparked conversation about cultural differences between Chinese and Western food cultures. The South China Morning Post reports the trend dubbed "lunch of suffering" by one blogger began last month after a Chinese tourist in Switzerland uploaded a video of a European woman on a train putting together a lunch that consisted of slices of ham and a bag of lettuce. Many subsequent posts piled on, mocking such "rabbit food" meals. But as BuzzFeed notes, young Chinese professionals in particular shifted the sentiment toward the positive, in part because they were so easy to prep.

The Guardian notes that one Chinese TikTok user explained in a video that the fascination—and sometimes revulsion—is based in part on the fact that the Chinese enjoy more complexity in their food, cooking with a wide variety of ingredients and combinations of spices. The overall attitude, however, seems best expressed by a blogger quoted at the end of the Guardian piece, who evaluates the sameness of a Western colleague's lunch by wondering if the boring meal is meant "to extend life," then "what is the meaning of life?” (More China stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.