“What is Your Flavour?”

“What’s your flavour?”

A blazing hot sun, a grey wall of industrial style, people standing in a long line, a charming foreign waitress who stands inside a take-out window asking you “What’s your flavour?” and finally a seemingly delicious ice cream handing to you. Oh of course what’s more, a selfie! That was what happened everyday on Wukang Road this summer.

a WIYF ice-cream

WIYF ice cream store is one of the most popular “Internet celebrity stores” nowadays. It is so well known because people are willing to queue for a WIYF ice cream for two hours. What magical ice cream deserves standing under a big sun for so long? That may be one of the strongest motivations persuading people to have a try.

In fact WIYF is a take-out window of Grains, a high quality coffee shop. The four letters are the abbreviation of “What is your flavour?” The slogan as well as a greeting is printed on the outside wall of the store.

When the weather turns cool, it seems that people’s fanaticism is fading. At the beginning of November, few people are waiting in the chilling wind. By contrast, when it was newly opened a lot of people were eager for a gelato in spite of the cold weather. Standing in the queue, I can feel it is moving really fast. One salesclerk is asking your flavour, collecting money and giving change. The other is proficiently putting a scoop of ice cream on a freshly baked cone.

“Why not get one!” That was what I heard when I was in the line. It came from a group of old ladies. They just passed by and the lining people drew their attention. After all, joining the fun and curiosity are “fine traditions” of Chinese people.

After ten minutes I got my salted caramel and dark chocolate double balls, spending far less time than the “hottest” period. I slowly finished the ice cream on Wukang Road where I heard a group of people besides me is talking about gossip of model circles, which sounds like stories from upper class.

I have to admit that 30 RMB and 10 minutes of waiting are fair in terms of the taste. I think it is a little too sweet and greasy but the free lemonade helps relieve it a lot. So why were people willing to spend hours waiting for a comparatively common ice cream?

“Many people are talking about the ice cream online. If I don’t buy one, I am out of date.” Said by Kevin Chou, a young man who holds two cones walking towards his car parked along Wukang Road.

WIYF is a typical example of many “Internet celebrity stores”, referring to those distinctive stores heatedly discussed by netizens. They usually boast perfect locations, delicate decorations and Western styles. Nestled in verdant plane trees, standing across the former residence of Bajin, the modern Gelato store is located on Wukang Road, belonging to the former French Concession. The owner of WIYF is Franck Pecol, who also manages many restaurants on Wukang Road, creating a French elegant ambience.

Peaceful Wukang Road

“Because of the dual longing for ice creams and Wukang Road, I went there.” That’s the reason given by Chloe Song why she decided to wait in line before the store opened in October. One thing I noticed was the menus of Grains are totally English and waitresses are foreign girls who can barely speak Chinese. WIYF conveys a sense that it is not so Chinese friendly. People usually go there to indulge in the petty-bourgeois atmosphere and it seems that Western style equals to upper class and higher life quality.

Another important reason why people rush to such exquisite and romantic stores is to take beautiful pictures that they can share via WeChat. Melody Yin, a “foodie” fond of exploring interesting restaurants in her leisure time and posting pictures on Moments said, “Pleasing environment is as important as delicious cuisines.”

Why people are so obsessed with sharing what they eat? The original intention of Moments as a function of WeChat should be a platform recording our life trace. Nowadays, the originally meaningful purpose is souring. Life trace is more like an excuse that young girls want to show off their fancy lives eating and enjoying their lives. A cup of coffee, a piece of cake and an opened book along with a paragraph illustrating their fulfilling afternoon time. The attitude that they want as many Likes from their friends as possible proves their “vanity”.

WIYF is an epitome of the “Internet celebrity culture”, which can be interpreted as gentrification, xenocentrism or just following the trend. Just as WIYF’s decreasing popularity these days, such kind of stores will finally reduce to some common places. Although there is nothing wrong to choose our own lifestyles, maybe it will make our lives easier and more comfortable to care less about the fancy life on WeChat.

“What is your flavour? Oh sir… Yes this is WIYF. Why don’t need to line? Hmm… There are too few people to form a line these days.”