Before moving to China I had never heard of WeChat–we are talking about 2014, when I came to the country for the first time. At that time, the company I worked for asked me to download the app on my cell phone. I communicated with my family and friends through WhatsApp, but all my communications in China, be it work or local friends, was done through WeChat.
I remember having downloaded WeChat while still in Brazil, but soon after arriving here, I had to uninstall and reinstall it because some options didn’t appear to me in the version I had–nothing that changes the way you communicate or live here though. I had more gaming options than in the Brazilian version and I could activate my cell phone’s microphone through the app and it tried to recognize the music that was playing. Honestly, it never made any difference to me.
When I returned to Brazil, I resumed mostly using WhatsApp. After buying a new phone, I didn’t even bother to install WeChat again. In the same way that nobody had heard of WhatsApp in China, in Tupinikim lands nobody knew what WeChat was, so there was no need to fill my cell phone memory with something I didn’t use.
The desire to go back to China hit me hard, though, and I returned there in 2016. This time, WeChat was already an essential app in the life of any foreigner living here and many Chinese too, and in 5 years, the app had only grown and added even more partners. Since I got back to China, the only thing I use WhatsApp for is to get my mom’s shared messages (of course, I made my parents download Wechat).
I make it clear that WeChat is a Chinese application and, therefore, many features unfortunately only work in China. WhatsApp is not a favorite of Americans either, which I believe makes sense, given the fact that it is very similar to WeChat (even if it appeared much later) and is basically related to messaging and not the other services that WeChat offers. Finally, let me explain why today, when I leave the house, the only things I take are my house key, cell phone and mask. Get ready for the pictures!
Location: where you are or any other location that you want to share.
Regarding audio, it has its uses, but I hardly ever use it (transcription)
Not only does it record voice messages, but it can also transcribe what you’re saying in text form in either English or Mandarin.
Moments is similar to Instagram.
Channels is similar to TikTok
Scan can do math, translate photos, or identify an object and find it on shopping websites on other apps
Mini Programs are mini-apps that use WeChat’s information to facilitate access to services, such as renting bicycles, health checks, transmissible disease tracking, and food ordering.
Scan Code can be used for payment, downloading apps, or adding contacts.
How you pay your bills
Some bills are prepaid, others are like we have in Brazil, but no bill is ever mailed to you. Everything is virtual, but if you don’t have a way to pay online, it’s possible to go to an office of the provider and pay.
I must mention that even with all these functions, Chinese teenagers think WeChat is out of date and for messages they prefer QQ.
Finally, WeChat is useful for anyone in China. It really makes life easy and accessible. China has been making efforts to use technology to its advantage and if you’re afraid because the Chinese government may be reading all your conversations and actions online, don’t forget that many companies have done the same (one of the reasons Facebook has so much difficulty operating in China)–and besides, what are you doing out there to be so worried that a country with more than a billion people will care about you?
Proofreader/Translator Evelyn Jamila