Chinese employees grow bananas on desks to combat office stress

Jìnzhǐ jiāo lǜ, that means to say 'ban banana green' doesn't mean to imply a ban imposed on green bananas but rather the cultivation that would take to turn a green banana yellow, a process they identify as something similar to healing.

Chinese offices have new customary attendance: pots with miniature banana trees, grown to term from green to yellow and their gardeners, that is, the employees, are so codependent to these bananas that they use it to regulate their mood. Make no mistake, it actually is a mood-regulating practise that involves the growth of bananas right on the desk of employees, right next to all of their workload. 

Image Source: Everyday Health

In Xiaohongshu, China’s equivalent of Instagram, a trend with tags like “禁止蕉绿” (jìnzhǐ jiāo lǜ) or “ban banana green,” has been emerging, perplexing users with the seeming vendetta against jiāo lǜ, a word that has a very specific meaning: an anxiety disorder. The reason is that this term is a homophone. Etymologically, jiāo comes from the word 香蕉 or, xiāngjiāo— that is, a banana. Meanwhile, 绿’s lǜ comes from 绿色 lǜsè, meaning green. Hence, putting both of these words together would make green banana but it’s significance comes from the usage of 蕉绿 (jiāo lǜ), that is, anxiety. Which is what makes the particular phrase, ‘ban banana green,’ an exercise in irony. 

It means to say, ‘Stop your banana from greening— stop your anxiety!’

This green to yellow transformation has led to a very ornate belief system in workplaces, leaving people with sublime hope in the idea of lasting one day to the next believing that their bananas are eventually going to turn yellow and they have to be there to see it. The perseverance this practise teaches is a lot like the Hindi proverb मेहनत का फल सदैव मीठा होता है (mehnat ka phal meetha hota hai) that is, it is hard work that earns sweet fruits (gains).

To a lot of employees, working in today’s age is stressful with the risk of a burn out at every turn. It’s fascinating to see people devise their own rituals to be able to combat this sense of despondence, and interesting to see it turn into a trend. In Xiaohongshu, this trend has garnered over 22,000 likes and has many office workers either pitching in with their own plants or making plans to get them. 

It’s also piqued a rising discussion on the idea of workplace harmony, with coworkers or department heads coming together to growing bananas together or gifting it to employees that need this kind of stability the most. There are reports of employees even writing down names of their coworkers on their growing bananas in bid to reserve them so as to share it when they’re sweet and saccharine.

This has led to an increase in sales of bananas, majorly reflecting on Taobao— an e-commerce platform run by the Alibaba Group. Many outlets have begun selling bananas specifically for this purpose, with tags like 最火上班搭子 (zuì huǒ shàngbān dā zi) that means, ‘the hottest work partner’ to follow with trends like work husband and work wife. The top seller at Taobao alone has moved around 20,000 bunches of bananas, according to NDTV. 

This surge in demand and the peculiar nature of modelling the entire journey from green to yellow has, of course, led suspicions among some users that all of this could be a publicity stunt, owing to the purchase volume of green bananas and how much more expensive they seem to be. 

But regardless of it’s true nature being an elaborate marketing hoax or an actual self-sustaining therapeutical endeavour, it’s needless to say that stressed office workers in the long Chinese workweeks (often over 49 hours) are grasping at threads to be able to deal with the pressure and any little helps. Including growing makeshift rainforests on their desks, building a connection to nature despite being trapped in a concrete corporate wheel for most, if not all, of their time. 

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