The emojis you use don’t mean what you think in China

Feb 11, 2019

In China, if you send your friend an ordinary smiley face 🙂, you might get an eyebrow raise 🤨 for it.

That’s because the regular smiley face is usually reserved for bosses.

Turns out the Chinese have their own etiquette when it comes to using emojis.

For example, 👋 might mean waving goodbye for many of us, but in China, it could mean that you just said something really dumb and the sender doesn’t want to speak to you. Ouch!

But even within China, emoji use varies. A report by WeChat, the country’s most popular chat app, shows that different generations also prefer using different emojis to express laughter.

Seems like people become more modest as they get older.
Seems like people become more modest as they get older. / Photo: Abacus

For instance, the generation born after the year 2000 prefers to use the facepalm emoji 🤦‍♀️, which actually shows up on WeChat as a face laughing with hands over its eyes.

As for those born in the 1990s, their favorite emoji is an old classic: 😂.

The emoji has fans internationally. In 2015, it was the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year.

Those born in the ’80s like to use 😁, while the ’70s generation apparently loves to snicker because they usually use 🤭.

Finally, those over the age of 55 really like...well, like. We mean this 👍, the thumbs-up emoji.

Some emoji are exclusive to WeChat and have unique meanings.

WeChat-exclusive emoji.
WeChat-exclusive emoji. / Photo: Abacus

For instance, the nose-picking one means you’ve just heard or seen something really dumb.

The wide-eyed face is often used when requesting a favor, since it’s polite to act a little embarrassed when asking for something in China.

Adapted from an article first published on Abacus.

Asian EmojiChinese internet slangThe Chinese internet
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