Vietnamese youth obsessed with being trendy

By Quynh Nguyen   November 16, 2023 | 08:15 pm PT
Vietnamese youth obsessed with being trendy
Customers wait in line to buy coin pancakes on Hoi Vu Street, Hanoi, September 2023. Photo by Thanh Lan
When Kieu Oanh heard that the latest new drink, hand-pounded lemon tea, had become popular in Hanoi, she did not hesitate to travel 30 km from Bac Ninh to stand in line.

This is not the first time the 24-year-old girl was quick to try out foods that had gone viral on social media. Whenever she discovered a new food or hangout spot within a 200 km radius, she invited her friends to go with her.

"Instead of listening to other people’s experiences, I want to experience it myself," the office worker said.

Hoang Nam, a 26-year-old man living in Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi, began taking notice of social media trends at the end of 2021. At first, he hopped on one or two trends to know what was going on. However, recently he has become determined to keep up with.

He said that if he doesn’t stay up to date with what is trendy and popular, his friends make fun of him and say that he "lives under a rock."

"Instead of being asked if I have 'done it yet' or if I have 'gone here yet', I want to say those words myself to the people around me and be praised as trendy," he said.

The obsession with trends exhibited by Kieu Oanh and Hoang Nam is called "catching trends"—a term that refers to trying out the hottest trends that are gaining attention. These trends typically last for a few days to a few months.

According to a survey conducted by VnExpress over the last three months, ten trends appeared on TikTok that the Vietnamese youth participated in. These included taking pictures with a flower cart on Phan Dinh Phung Street, Hanoi, eating green sticky rice, buying custard cakes and coin pancakes, trying out salted coffee and hand-pounded lemon tea, wearing traditional clothing, using public bikes, and going cloud-hunting.

Young people flock to Phan Dinh Phung Street, Hanoi to take pictures with flower carts, Aug. 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Nguyen

Young people flock to Phan Dinh Phung Street, Hanoi to take pictures with flower carts, Aug. 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Nguyen

To explain why so many people are focused on new fads, psychology specialist and professor at HCMC’s National Academy of Public Administration Nguyen Thi Minh outlined three reasons.

One is due to a sense of curiosity and fear of missing out on something new. Two is to avoid being called out by their friends for being "behind." Finally, many young people have yet to develop own unique character and are unconsciously running after anything new and exciting.

Le Anh Tu, a master’s graduate from the Faculty of Public Relations and Communications at HCMC’s Van Lang University, built on this by stating that the rise of social media, especially TikTok in recent years, is normalizing the phenomenon of "catching trends."

Statistics from research company DataReportal showed that by February of 2023, Vietnam had 50 million TikTok users, ranking six on the global list of countries with the most TikTok users.

Additionally, some people catch trends because they are enticed by the prospect of being sponsored by brands and receiving advertisement revenue if they become a key opinion leader (KOL) or key opinion consumer (KOC) with influence on the market.

The specialist also commented that "catching trends" helps the youth to find new experiences for themselves, especially after their needs for fun and entertainment went unmet during the pandemic. For business people, keeping up with trends can help create new jobs and revenue in the current market.

For Kieu Oanh, her obsession with keeping up with trends has left with her little time to focus on her work. Moreover, her constant need to travel and try out new foods has resulted in her having to borrow money from her friends.

Psychology specialist Nguyen Thi Minh advised people to be selective of what trends they follow and avoid engaging in behaviors that are unseemly and illegal.

"Trends aren’t bad, but everyone should be mindful and think clearly. In no circumstances should we let trends be harmful to ourselves and the people around us," she said.

Le Anh Tu also warned that not all content creators will become famous and receive ad revenue. As such, young people should focus on developing themselves and creating their own lifestyles instead of following the crowd.

Hanh Dung, a 28-year-old woman residing in HCMC, once lined up for two hours for custard cakes, but all she got back were bruises from being shoved and disappointment when the flavor was not what she expected. After this incident, she decided to step back from the trends. Now, every time a new trend appears, she waits 10-15 days for the hype to die down before she tries it out herself.

"This is how I tame my curiosity and ensure my safety. Even though I’m always going to try and keep up with the trends to stay in the loop, I’m going to do it in a smart way," Dung said.

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