Into the Metaverse...

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

Here’s the latest edition of my Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 newsletter, a collection of Chinese words, phrases, idioms and slang to help you maintain and improve your Chinese language skills, and keep on top of the latest language trends in China.

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In this week’s newsletter, we focus on business vocab:

  • discussing the Metaverse - is it a real thing?

  • debating if ‘selfie venues’ are already dead

  • and getting up to speed on the business models of two new coffee brands

We also review some must-have business words from an earlier newsletter at the end.



Discussing the Metaverse

Since Mark Zuckerberg laid out his vision for the Metaverse, and the re-naming of Facebook as Meta, you can’t get far into any Wechat feed, or business-y conversation in Chinese without hearing this word:

  • 元宇宙 - yuán yǔzhòu - The Meta Universe, or Metaverse.

The Chinese Internet has invented words to talk about FB and Meta:

  • 非死不可 fēisǐ bùkě - ‘must die’ - an invented idiom which phonetically sounds similar to ‘Facebook’

  • 没他 méi tā - ‘no more’ - which sounds similar to ‘Meta’

    不远的将来社交媒体领域也许就真的“没他”什么事了 - In the not-too-distant future, perhaps there will be no room for Meta in the social media world.

Business publications have long editorials on the Metaverse ‘strategic layouts’ of BAT companies:

  • BAT的元宇宙布局 BAT de yuán yǔzhòu bùjú - Metaverse strategies of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

And economists reckon it’s going to be everywhere, even impacting the latest economic trends in China. Some of which we have discussed previously in this newsletter:

  • 在宅经济 zàizhái jīngjì - stay at home economy

  • 单身经济 dānshēn jīngjì - singles economy

  • 斜杠经济 xiégāng jīngjì - side hustle economy

  • 零工经济 línggōng jīngjì - gig economy

So, if you want to hold your own in a convo about the Metaverse, here are some of the words you’ll need to know.

Useful words

  • 变脸 biànliǎn - face changing; it normally means something more sinister, but here it’s a play on words meaning ‘changed its brand’

    脸书变脸引爆元宇宙:概念股涨停,VR站上风口 - Facebook re-branding sparks interest in Metaverse: concept shares trigger limit-up trading rules, with VR becoming the next big thing

  • 拟真 nǐzhēn - simulation

    基于现实构造拟真还原平行空间 - Build a simulated environment based on reality.

  • 缥缈 piāomiǎo - ethereal

    在这个宏大而又缥缈的概念下,发展前景几何还是一个未知数 - It’s still an unknown as to how such a grand and vague concept will develop.


  • 遥不可及 yáobù kějí - out of reach

    元宇宙并非遥不可及 - The Metaverse is not out of reach.

  • 昙花一现 tánhuā yīxiàn - fleeting [yī becomes second tone here]

    元宇宙的概念本身是华尔街炒作而起的,是否昙花一现取决于资本方是否要寻找一个新的概念 - The Metaverse is a concept that was cooked up on Wall Street. Whether or not it is a flash in the pan will be determined by capital flows finding a new concept [that is believable].

  • 必不可缺 bìbù kěquē - indispensable

    VR技术必不可缺,由此被业界认为是元宇宙的重要入口,再度站上风口 - VR technology is an indispensable part [of the Metaverse]. It is regarded by the industry as an important access point into the Metaverse, and potentially the next big thing.

Are selfie venues dead?

Readers of this newsletter will remember the new trend of ‘selfie venues’ (自拍馆 - zìpāi guǎn) appearing in Chinese cities.

Well, according to recent reports they might be short-lived (36Kr - Chinese):


The wind can raise new waves [trends] with ease, but after the waters retreat how much sand remains on the beach? With the main source of income being ticket sales, this is not sufficient to cover rent and staff cost in first-tier cities.

Useful words

Here are some more words to discuss the trend and debate whether it’s a thing or not.

  • 收割 shōugē - harvest, gather

    “收割”年轻人的热爱是创业方向上一道屡试不爽的财富密码,于是,自拍馆生意也火了 - A tried and tested route to wealth is working out what young people love and giving it to them. This is why ‘selfie venues’ have got so big.

    • Related: 割韭菜 gējiǔcài - ‘cutting leeks’ which means ‘taking advantage of customers’ (See 20 Feb newsletter)

  • 抽身 chōushēn - remove yourself, exit

    如果到期生意依然不好,她会选择从这个创业项目抽身 - If the business isn’t going well when the lease expires, she will chose to exit.

  • 动辄 dòngzhé - easily, at every turn (more formal way of saying 动不动 - dòngbudòng)

    区别于传统拍照馆或写真馆动辄成千上万的价格 - Unlike more traditional forms of photography studios whose costs are much higher - into the tens of millions.


Here are three REALLY useful idioms you should know:

  • 屡试不爽 lǚshì bùshuǎng - tried and tested

    一道屡试不爽的财富密码 - A tried and tested secret to wealth.

  • 如火如荼 rúhuǒ rútú - in full swing, booming

    数据显示,如火如荼的自拍馆市场上已经有近两成自拍馆倒闭 - Data shows that in the booming market of selfie venues, nearly 20% of businesses have already folded.

  • 吃喝拉撒 chīhē lāsā - eating, drinking and sleeping - ‘every need’

    除了店面租金每月8万多,照顾宠物的吃喝拉撒支出,员工成本,每月自拍馆成本在11-12万元左右 - In addition to more than RMB 80,000 rent each month, including looking after the pets’ every need, and covering staff cost, the monthly outgoings of a selfie venue is around RMB 110-120,000.


Coffee wars

After the dramatic fall of Luckin Coffee, a new wave of domestic coffee house brands are entering the market.

It’s not surprising, according to research young Chinese people love coffee (Wechat - Chinese):

  • 中国年轻人需要自己的咖啡品牌 - Young people want a coffee brand that they feel is theirs.

And, they drink quite a lot of it:

  • 在具有咖啡消费行为的人中,超六成消费者每周会饮用3杯及以上咖啡 - Among consumers who drink coffee [in China], over 60% drink at least 3 cups every week.

There are two big brands investors and business-y types are talking about. They have very different models which readers of this newsletter should be able to talk about:

  • Manner Coffee

    “低价+扩张门店”的战略,门店面积小 - Strategy of ‘Low price + Expansion of stores.’ Each store has a very small floor space.

    • People grab a coffee and go

  • M Stand

    “开各种主题店、不停变换风格”来吸引流量,提升消费者的线下体验感 - Strategy focussing on the offline experience and generating online web traffic.

    • Customers take their time, enjoy the experience, take selfies and share on social media

Useful words

Here are some words you can drop into convos about this trend.

  • 突围 tūwéi - breakthrough

    差异化成了新品牌的突围之道 - Differentiation has become the key to brand success.

  • 心智 xīnzhì - mind

    对新品牌来说,想要占领消费者心智,面对的挑战并不少 - As a new brand wanting to win the hearts and minds of consumers, there are many challenges.

    • Note: Unlike in English, the character 心 xīn, heart, can mean both heart, mind, and ‘heart and mind’

  • 锚点 máodiǎn - anchor point

    对于品牌来说,这是占领消费者心智过程中的重要锚点 - This is an important anchor point in the process of establishing the brand in the minds of consumers.

  • 小资 xiǎozī - petty bourgeoisie; no one actually says this ;) - it means ‘well-off middle class’

    小资一族则更偏好具有氛围感的线下场景 - More well-off customers prefer the atmosphere of the offline experience.

  • 造血 zàoxiě - creating blood; generating cashflow

    几家公司融资多次,消耗了不少的资金,依然没有形成足够的造血能力 - A number of companies have raised funds on several occasions, used up a lot of capital, and still can’t sustain their businesses.

Three character words

  • 成图率 chéngtúlǜ - share-ability

    三顿半的投资人黄海曾提出过“成图率”的概念,即100个用户买了你的产品,有多少人会拍照自发分享在平台上 - Saturn Bird investor, Huang Hai, previously coined the phrase ‘share-ability’ which is for each 100 customers that buy your product, how many of them will then share their experience through images on social media platforms.

    • Note: this is my translation. As far as I can find this is the first time it’s been translated on the Internet ;). If you have a better suggestion please email me.

  • 跟风热 gēnfēngrè - jumping on the bandwagon

    一位投资人经历新消费赛道的投资热后,坦言也许咖啡更像是一场跟风热 - One investor who has experienced hot investment in the consumer sector previously, frankly shared his view that this [latest wave of investor interest] is people jumping on the bandwagon.

  • 关店潮 guāndiàncháo - a wave of closures

    资本颇为看重的瑞幸也在2020年经历过大量的关店潮 - Even Luckin coffee, which was taken quite seriously by investors, experienced a mass wave of closures in 2020.


Here are three great ‘war-like’ idioms to discuss aggressive Chinese companies.

  • 必争之地 bìzhēng zhīdì - a must-win battleground

    巨鹿路、长乐路这些大牌店和潮牌店较多的地方,都属于咖啡品牌必争之地 - Julu Road and Changle Road, where there are many fashion stores, are key battle grounds for coffee brands.

  • 跑马圈地 pǎomǎ quāndì - preemptive moves into new markets

    在跑马圈地时期,咖啡品牌的高估值,更像是资本为了未来的市场而付出的溢价 - As brands are aggressively expanding into a new market, coffee brands enjoy high valuations which means investors are paying a premium based on future market potential.

    • Another one of my favourite idioms - a must when talking about aggressive and fast-growing Chinese companies.

  • 视为己任 shìwéi jǐrèn - take it as one’s own responsibility

    大家也都将改变咖啡的消费习惯视为己任 - They [the brands] have taken on the responsibility of changing consumers’ coffee drinking habits.


This week I’m sticking with the business theme and diving into the newsletter archive.

Here are three words that came up in the stories covered above which we first learned when reading about Xiaomi’s move into the EV market in April:

  • 护城河 hùchénghé - ‘moat’ or protective barrier

    希望能通过快速的门店扩张,构建自己的第一条护城河 - The company hopes to establish a high barrier to entry to the market by expanding its number of stores rapidly.

  • 佼佼者 jiǎojiǎo zhě - hall of fame; who’s who

    Manner以及M Stand无疑是新品牌中的佼佼者 - Manner and M Stand are undoubtedly the top players of the new brands.

  • 赛道 sài dào - sector or sub-sector

    赛道头部品牌,去年底获得上亿元融资 - The leading brand in the sector secured over RMB100 million in funding last year.

Check these and many more words out in the 3 April newsletter below:

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻
Xiaomi's Secret Weapon
Here’s the latest edition of the Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 newsletter, a collection of Chinese words, phrases, idioms and slang to help you maintain and improve your Chinese language skills, and keep on top of the latest language trends in China. This week how to say the right things during Tomb Sweeping Festival…
Read more

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