From ‘Syrian style’ cafes to Costco, here are Chinese influencers’ go-to spots

By Alma Fabiani

Published Nov 19, 2021 at 12:22 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Yesterday, Thursday 18 November, VICE published an article looking into the surprising (and shocking) emergence of “Syrian style” cafes in China. “Chinese influencers and diners are flocking to trendy restaurants and cafes decorated in ‘Syrian style’ so they could photograph themselves posing in front of gaping holes and run-down walls that look like they have been bombed in a war,” wrote staff writer Viola Zhou.

Since 2020, influencers have promoted a wide range of industrial-looking restaurants, cafes and bars across the country by branding them as ‘Syrian style’. The term is also used to describe shabby-looking things in general. “I smashed my mobile phone again today and stamped on it,” one Weibo user wrote in October. “Now my phone is of Syrian style.”

The so-called ‘Syrian debris style’ refers to designs that often feature grey and exposed brick walls, reinforced concrete and uneven structures. Some places also have cracked home décor such as clocks, televisions and surveillance cameras that appear like they have been damaged in a war.

Throughout her research, Zhou went on to find that restaurant owners who had made the choice of going for such an insensitive term fully understood how it trivialises Syria’s devastating civil war—yet, they continued by explaining how valuable the change seemed to be since it could attract customers eager to take cool photos for their social feeds.

“If I call it ‘normcore’, no one would know what it is exactly,” 21-year-old Wang Fei, owner of a barbecue restaurant that features a “refugee barbecue area” told VICE. “But if I call it ‘Syrian’, people could imagine it in their head, and would want to check it out.”

However, it seems like half-assed hipster coffee shops aren’t enough content for influencers these days, which brings me to their second go-to spot, Costco. Yep, I’m talking about the American store chain mostly known for its boxy warehouse, wide variety of products, and competitive prices.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by 懿 (@fiona_777z)

“On RED, China’s Instagram-like social media platform, people share influencer-esque shots of themselves in front of the big-box store’s branch in Shanghai. Opened in 2019, it’s the first Costco store to operate in mainland China,” states another VICE article.

These Costco-themed photoshoots tend to include the same elements: a sprawling parking lot, blue skies, and, of course, the industrial building. When posted online, references to Los Angeles and users “pretending to be in Los Angeles” are commonly found.

While the trend appears to have started towards the early beginning of 2020, after it received international coverage and was presented as a way for Chinese social media users to pretend they’re in Los Angeles, old posts became flooded with a fresh wave of critical comments. Many Chinese users accused these Costco photo takers of idolising Western culture, a subject that’s particularly sensitive in the country.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @mddmmx3

Meanwhile, the ‘Syrian style’ has also been applied to dessert places, fried chicken joints, offices, homes, and clothing stores, and more. Of course, some internet users have been quick to criticise the term as capitalising on others’ suffering. “Can you imagine some shop calling itself ‘Wenchuan earthquake debris style’ or ‘Zhengzhou flood debris style’?” a user commented in September 2021, referring to past disasters in China.

My point here is not to blame China’s influencers for any of this, but rather to highlight the terrifying power that social media has over us and the influence it has on our decision-making process. Nowadays, when a new concept turns out to be a traffic driver, there’s no way to stop it from growing bigger and, ultimately, from getting out of hand. Although Costco-themed photoshoots seem harmless, influencers who have dared to share them across social media have been on the receiving end of hateful comments. ‘Syrian style’ spots, on the other hand, have managed to grow into a full-blown trend across the country. And as much as I despise the latter, I can’t help but wonder what other deranged concept will ultimately replace it.

You know what they say, ‘do it for the gram’…

Keep On Reading

By Abby Amoakuh

Pictures of Harry Styles sporting a buzz cut reignite bald theories online. RIP to the long locks

By Abby Amoakuh

Jeffrey Epstein flight logs: Prince Andrew controversy resurfaces as nearly 200 names to be released

By Abby Amoakuh

Selena Gomez fans bash new boyfriend Benny Blanco and call him unworthy

By Abby Amoakuh

Nara Smith’s braids are causing outrage on TikTok. Here’s why

By Abby Amoakuh

The murder of a 22-year-old nursing student in Athens Georgia could decide the US presidential elections

By Abby Amoakuh

Grave site for Megan Thee Stallion’s mother ramps up security after Nicki Minaj fans leak location

By Charlie Sawyer

OnlyFans models are using breastfeeding content as a loophole to bypass Instagram’s nudity policy

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Exploitation exposed: British farms accused of modern slavery amid Home Office cover-up

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

What is the viral red nail theory and does it actually work?

By Abby Amoakuh

New Brandy Melville HBO documentary paints CEO Silvio Marsan as super creepy

By Abby Amoakuh

Suki Waterhouse expecting first child with Robert Pattinson, flaunts baby bump in sparkly dress

By Charlie Sawyer

Mental health patients raped and sexually assaulted, new shocking NHS abuse scandal reveals

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Are the Lemon Bottle fat dissolving injections taking over TikTok safe? Experts raise concerns

By Charlie Sawyer

Vivek Ramaswamy shares Taylor Swift conspiracy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. denies OnlyFans rumour

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

New HBO documentary Brandy Hellville & The Cult Of Fast Fashion set to expose Brandy Melville

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Men are weirdly confident they could land a plane in an emergency. We asked them to explain

By Abby Amoakuh

Julia Fox and Madonna become bodybuilders in new Sevdaliza and Grimes music video

By Abby Amoakuh

Watch this video of pro-Palestinian protesters raiding an airport in search of Israelis

By Charlie Sawyer

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sacks Home Secretary Suella Braverman as cabinet reshuffle begins

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

What’s poppin? Not Jack Harlow’s Thanksgiving halftime performance