Start With WeChat
Every time I meet someone who's vaguely interested in China or Chinese apps, I would rattle on like an excited baby you couldn't bear to shut up. To my dear friends and clients, and anybody else who's interested, thank you for visiting my blog and I hope you'll enjoy this first post.
- Get WeChat
If you've never heard of it, I suggest you go google it now then download and install it. Unless you read Chinese, get the English version, or Italian, Japanese, French, etc, whichever you're most comfortable with. Once installed you can start exploring all the different features and functions that comes built-in. You may recognise bits that resemble iMessage or WhatsApp, with a sprinkle of Twitter and Snapchat over here, a dash of Facebook over there, and a dollop of Paypal to bind all the ingredients... All these features and functions are seamlessly integrated in one single app!
- Post something
Unlike Twitter or Facebook your posts are not public, but don't go crazy just yet! We don't want your account getting blacklisted, at least not right now. Stay away from anything pornographic, drug or gambling related, and anti-China or anti-Chinese government. Don't believe it, you can go ahead and test it but I'd learn how to play the game before bending the rules. If it isn't serious, your post will be removed. They've got a system that will make sure this happens within hours and nobody is going to send you any messages about it (like how Instagram notified me when they removed my London Naked Bike Ride photo). I know because I've experienced it first hand. I also know several people who've been arrested by the local government because of their social media activity. (Are you intrigued yet?) China censorship is an entire subject on its own that I won't cover in this post so why don't you go figure out how to post something without a picture on your Moments for now.
- Add a friend
Your posts are called "Moments" in WeChat lingo. Think of as a blog feed that can only be viewed by people you've added and chosen to share your feed with. You could use the traditional method and manually add numbers to your "Contacts" or scan QR codes a la Snapchat; if you head over to "Discover" you could search for "People Nearby" or toss a "Message in a Bottle" out into a virtual sea for a Tinder experience. "Shake" is a great feature and handy at networking or social events when you want to add more than one person at the same time. It's quite a funny sight when you see a group of people all shaking their phones in unison but very interactive and effective.
Emojis vary across apps and devices but remain fairly standardised by Unicode, until you start using apps like Line or WeChat that are developed in Asia. Have a look at the default QQ emojis that come with WeChat and you might notice a few that aren't so familiar. The "Chuckle" emoji, for example, is your standard :smile: emoji (smiling face with smiling eyes) but with a hand over the mouth. I'm not sure if it reflects a more conservative, male chauvinistic Asian society where women were supposed to cover their mouths while laughing, but amongst my circles of friends, both men and women often use the "Chuckle" emoji in everyday banter.
Besides the QQ emojis, you also have the option of downloading or creating your own animated gifs known as "Stickers" which have been around long before Apple's Stickers for iMessage. Unlike Apple, you don't have to be an Xcode developer to create your own sticker packs. When a gif is posted in a message, you can easily turn it into a sticker by tapping and holding the image to "Add to Stickers". That's it!
- Make friends with the locals
This one's like a boss level in an RPG where you gain allies and unlock levels like "Red Packet" and "Transfer".
Whether you're interested in learning more about Chinese culture or planning to do business in China, WeChat's a great place to start with and I quote, "For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them" (Aristotle).