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Going with the Flow: Bandwagoners in Chinese

Are you a trendsetter, or a bandwagoner?  Do you march to the beat of your own drum, or follow the herd?

Whether it be sports allegiances, fashion choices, music tastes or other cultural trends, there are those with a unique style, (别具一格), and those who instead prefer to follow along.

Today let’s look at 3 ways to describe people who prefer to let others make the risky choices, and decide to make the perhaps more prudent decision to follow along.

Before we start, allow me to recommend FluentU to you.

随大流 vs. 赶时髦 vs. 盲目随从

1. 随大流 (suí dà liú)- go with the flow

(suí): along with (as in 随便– suí biàn- casual, arbitrary)
大流 (dà liú): “the flow”, crowd

Literally, this means “with the wave”, or “go with the flow”.  The 大流 can be a certain ideological trend, contemporary convention, or a pop culture fad.  The important point here is that it is generally a mainstream, conventional, or widespread idea; you are seeking safety in numbers.  You observe your surroundings, and decide to stay in line with the majority.  It can be used in both positive and negative circumstances.

Example A:

专家指出,资本市场最容易出现跟风、随大流的羊群效应

zhuān jiā zhǐ chū, zī běn shì chǎng zuì róng yì chū xiàn gēn fēng, suí dà liú de yáng qún xiào yìng

Experts note that capital markets are easiest for a “follow the herd” mentality to appear

Example B:

有的学生在专业填报时,没有自己的主见,而是随大流,别人报什么,自己报什么

yǒu de xué shēng zài zhuān yè tián bào shí, méi yǒu zìjǐ de zhǔ jiàn, ér shì suí dà liú, bié rén bào shén me, zì jǐ bào shén me

When choosing a major in college, there are students without their own opinions, and decide to simply “go with the flow” and choose whatever major others are choosing

 

2 . 赶时髦 (gǎnshímáo)- follow what’s fashionable

(gǎn): to chase, to follow
时髦 (shímáo): fashionable, trendy

This means to literally “chase the fashion”, or “seek what’s fashionable”.  As opposed to 随大流, to 赶时髦 isn’t necessarily to follow what the majority is seeking; rather it is to pursue a specific style or niche.  Regardless of whether the specific trend is mainstream or not, 赶时髦 is to observe what a specific set of your peer group is up to, and decide it is worth following.

Example A:

餐馆赶时髦用平板电脑点餐

cānguǎn gǎn shí máo yòng píng bǎn diàn nǎo diǎn cān

Restaurants follow the trend of using tablet computers to order food

Example B:

时下年轻人求婚都是花样颇多,一个个赶时髦赶新鲜,为的就是想要女友答应自己的求婚

shí xià nián qīng rén qiú hūn dōu shì huā yàng pō duō, yī gè gè gǎn shí máo gǎn xīn xiān, wèi de jiù shì xiǎng yào nǚ yǒu dā yìng zì jǐ de qiú hūn

These days lots of young people are following a pattern when proposing marriage, one after the other following trends and looking for fresh ideas in order for their girlfriend to say yes to their proposal.

3. 盲目随从 (máng mù suí cóng): to blindly follow

盲目 (máng mù): blind, blindness

随从 (suí cóng): accompany, go along with

As indicated by its literal translation of “to blindly follow”, 盲目随从 has the most negative connotation of these three.  There’s nothing wrong with “going with the flow” or “pursuing what’s fashionable”, but who would want to “blindly follow”?  As shown in our examples below, you probably don’t want to 盲目随从.

Example A:

百姓的思想已被禁祻,不能独立思考,不存在异见,只会盲目随从

bǎi xìng de sī xiǎng yǐ bèi jìn gù, bù néng dú lì sī kǎo, bù cún zài yì jiàn, zhǐ huì máng mù suí cóng

The people’s thinking is restricted, not allowed to independently think or have dissenting views, and only allowed to blindly follow.

Example B:

专家讲,治疗癫痫病的方法众多,患者不要盲目随从,选择治疗方法要看其疗效和治愈率

zhuān jiā jiǎng, zhì liáo diān xián bìng de fāng fǎ zhòng duō, huàn zhě bù yào máng mù suí cóng, xuǎn zé zhì liáo fāng fǎ yào kàn qí liáo xiào hé zhì yù lǜ

Experts say there are many ways to treat epilepsy, so patients shouldn’t blindly follow; the choice of treatment should depend on efficiency and cure rate.

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