SH*T ARMENIAN HIPSTERS SAY:
Yerevan is not immune to global phenomenons, such as that of plaid shirts, unkempt beards, ironic haircuts, tattoos, fixies, pop-up galleries, and Edison lightbulb-adorned coffee shops. This new counter-culture features its own eateries, habits, and phrases, which I wish to decipher below:
1- “Green Bean? they’re practically a multinational mega-corporation”
‘Member Jazzve? Yeah, neither do I. The Green Bean, with its strictly non-smoking environment, fair-trade coffee option, and general commitment to environmentally sustainable and healthy living made its mark in the city as a space for discussing important issues back in 2012. The coffee shop’s popularity as a meeting place for nomads of the digital age, expats, repats and locals alike has quickly altered the cityscape, spawning copy-cat cafés as well as a cultural phenomenon of its own. With 3 locations already operating in Yerevan, and hints at potential international expansion, how long till they become the next Starbucks? Hipsters beware, it’s all gonna be mainstream soon!
2- “Impact Hub; is more than a co-working, it’s like..A COMMUNITY or something…”
So you just picked up your fair trade latte in your reusable cup from Green Bean, what do you do now? You walk over to your Hot Desk at Impact Hub and get back to work on one of your many socially-driven projects of course! Yep, Yerevan has its very own Impact Hub: the first of its kind in the region. ( It’s so trendy, that even I had to base my own startup there). Hey, the chairs are from Herman Miller,…which is a big deal?
3- “Can’t tell if his beard is ironic, or if he’s an Armenian Apostolic Priest”.
BEARDS! as recently as 5 years ago, these exotic hairy facial ornaments were relegated to the exclusive use of the Armenian Clergy. Any self-respecting Armenian man would be notoriously clean-shaven. Any sign of Protein filament growth on one’s chin would be a tell-tale sign of a decaying social structure.
So what happened? We can blame the influx of young repatriates from the Diaspora for introducing male grooming styles common in Montréal’s Le Plateau district, or we can accept the narrative put forth by the scientific community that male beards help attract a mate. Regardless, beards are a here to stay. We need to accept it.
4- “Yeah, I paid 12 000 AMD for this haircut at FIRM, totally worth it!”
The propagation of exotic facial hair has encouraged the growth of a virtual cottage industry around beard grooming. The number of specialised barber shops opening up in Yerevan is growing at such a rate that, according to my totally made-up estimate, it will soon surpass the number of Moykas and Shawarma shops combined.
Yeah, I don’t understand it either. Turns out that members of city’s elite, not content with the 1000 AMD (2€) buzzcuts offered by the little boutka in your local baq, have discovered a way to spend 12 000 AMD (25€) that only speciality barber shops can.
5- “Left my job at PicsArt for way cooler blogging gig at Ginosi”.
No hipster sub-culture can sustain itself without a healthy tech startup scene. Don’t despair, because Yerevan certainly doesn’t disapoint. With dozens of startups popping up each month, and a growing base of established tech giants are competing to snatch up as much talent as Armenia’s new ‘creative class’ can offer, it’s not uncommon to bump into the same old god-damned designers, programmers, and marketing specialists at every new creative working-space you migrate to.
6- “Saryan Street is basically Yerevan’s Williamsburg…”
When I finally left the far-off suburb of RayKom, no longer willing or capable of dealing with the excruciating 12 minute-long daily commute to work, and moved to Pokr Kentron, my wife and I settled in a cosy flat on a then-quiet Saryan Street. The yet-undiscovered area was known only to the city’s ‘edgy’ nightlife enthusiasts who stuck to dive bars (now institutions) like Red Bull Pub, Calumet, and Process.
The opening of Yerevan’s first wine Bar, In Vino, quickly shattered that tranquillity. This non-smoking venue ( ‘non-smoking’ is actually a thing now)with excellent local wine has paved the way for the establishment of all sorts of cafés, tapas eateries, organic boutiques, tech startups, ironically-expensive barbershops, and BBQ restaurants on this 800m-long stretch of street. Even the new OST took on this bourgeois aesthetic.
7- “Komitas is too gentrified, I’m moving to 3rd mass, it’s heritage buildings, and working-class atmosphere is wAAAy more authentic”
If these changes concern you, then you probably live on Komitas — near the Baregamutyun Metro; Yerevan’s REAL Williamsburg…(Molokans are the new Hassidics). Be warned: gentrification will soon reach you there too. You ALREADY HAVE your own farmer’s market there. You can easily get discounts for shopping with your new reusable “Toprak-Petk-Chi” grocery sack. It’s only a matter of time before your local Lahmajoun-Khachapuri-Shawarma-anots starts redecorating with faux exposed-brick interiors, and serve gluten-free, vegan, cruelty-free meals on recovered wood countertops.
You’re probably already contemplating a move to Shenkavit. (3rd Mas to the locals! you’d know that if you were familiar with Yerevan’s unique colloquialisms ! you philistine!…). Once Ground-Zero for Rabiz culture, Tamanyan’s neo-classical proletariat’s paradise’s low rents, and metro access has already begun attracting the most avant-garde of trailblazing hipsters in search of new lofts to set up their art galleries.
8- ‘“Farm to table?’ that’s like…every restaurant in Yerevan”
Yerevan’s hipsters cannot help but scoff at San Fransisco’s burgeoning foodie-scene. Afterall, Yerevan had “farm-to-table” restaurants way before Portland did…mostly because the economic limitations meant that you couldn’t really get anything else anyway, but I digress…The point is, everything is organic when you can’t afford pesticides DAMMIT!
9- “Who needs Uber when you have GG?”
Armenian hipsters are so avant-garde that they don’t need Uber. They have something way more underground: GG. It’s pretty much the same as Uber, down to the app’s design and functionality… just without inconvenient features like online payment, or destination estimation, ‘cause you know…we’re too edgy for that. If you really want to go native, you can always wave your hand at any street corner and get into some guy named Seroj’s banged up 1976 Lada 07, yeah, so vintage, I know, (Extra points if it’s missing a bumper), and answer a barrage of questions about your married life, or solve innovative zionist conspiracy theories. That’s just how we roll!
10- “I only drink local craft beer from Dargett, WTV, you probably never heard of it!”
If you can’t keep up with this rapid change of pace, you’re probably looking for a dive to drink-away your sorrows. Does anyone even drink Kotayk anymore?
I hear pitches about launching a craft brewery in Yerevan literally every week. I even came close to doing that myself once, but as I discovered, it’s easier said than done.
Dargett craft brewery made asking our relatives to smuggle in cases of Blanche de Chambly whenever they visited from Montréal a thing of the past. The place has become so trendy, that some of Yerevan’s more capricious patrons have been known to specifically avoid the place because of that fact.
Conclusions: T.I.A. vs #ԵԵՉ
We reach peak-hipster when one looks back at it all, and ultimately brushes off all explanation for the absurd world we live in with the idiom ‘T.I.A.’ (This Is Armenia). Still worth it though!