Lauren Wilcox has a degree in English from the University of Portsmouth, and is teaching at a language centre as part of the 2017 Teach China Graduate Program. Lauren’s been in China for over a year, and over the coming weeks she’ll be sharing some of her China experiences to date, both at school and on her travels.
If you’re thinking of coming to China, you will have heard of WeChat. It’s China’s answer to WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, all in one APP!
But WeChat isn’t the only APP that has made life an awful lot easier for foreign teachers. In a country where letters have been replaced with characters and accidentally changing the tone of what you’re trying to say can alter the whole conversation, technology is key! And, as we all live our everyday on mobiles now, it’s never been easier to get by in China.
The Wonders of WeChat
WeChat is used all across China to communicate, give directions, post media, purchasing and send money. Your bank card links up to it and you can transfer money from your bank into your ‘WeChat wallet.’ Then, when you want to buy something, you can access your QR code (usually in the top right hand corner called ‘money’, have it scanned and the money comes straight out. No problem! Unless you’ve ran out of data. (This has happened to me more times than I would like to admit…)
You can send money to your contacts too, by simply clicking ‘transfer’ and typing in the amount you want to send them. This is perfect for when you go out for dinner. It stops everyone having a different receipt and annoying the waitress.
‘WeChat’ moments, are much like Instagram or Facebook you can post pictures or videos and friends from your contact list can ‘like’ and comment.
On some phones, WeChat has a translate option, under the ‘scan’ button. Here, you can take pictures of Chinese characters and it will loosely translate the script. I use loosely because like anything going through a translator, it doesn’t always end up being correct, but you can get the idea of what you’re trying to read at least. Recently a woman in Guangzhou was trying to communicate with my friend and I via WeChat, so we took a picture and translated it to “Your people?” which we figured in a roundabout way was probably “Where are you from?” People here are so curious, and if you don’t tell them, they’ll probably just say you’re American.
One thing I love about WeChat is the ability to send a location to a contact. You can save your favourite locations to show taxi drivers (massively helpful!) An interesting safety feature also on WeChat is ‘Real-Time Location.’ This feature tracks where you are and you can send to a contact to track you. I usually use this if I’m ever on my own somewhere or if I’m lost (happens quite a lot). I guess this is the equivalent to Iphone’s ‘find my friends’ feature.
Finally, you can video & voice call people all around the world (as long as they are a contact of yours!) WeChat is what I use to ‘facetime’ back home in England, but make sure you turn your VPN off and have a charger handy as it drains your phone.
Taobao, For Shopping
My second favourite APP is the famous Taobao. Imagine Amazon, eBay, Ikea and your favourite high street stores teamed up and made an APP. That is Taobao.
It’s home to everything you never knew you needed, like an inflatable T-Rex costume, souvenirs, homeware, clothes and tons more. The amount of time I have spent endlessly scrolling through is probably quite unhealthy, but so necessary.
Usually, everything is delivered to your address of choice (within China) within a week too, which just fuels my shopping addiction.
Not the most important APP, but if you do have Taobao, you will need Alipay. It’s very similar to WeChat pay and you can link it to your bank. However, on a recent trip to Shanghai Disneyland, I couldn’t use WeChat pay and had to use Alipay. So, it’s good to have it just in case the shop /place you’re in doesn’t support WeChat.
Meituan, Food Delivery with a Difference
My third favourite APP is Meituan. It’s food delivery with a difference. Uber Eats has nothing on this APP! Got a hangover? No worries, just order some painkillers on the medicine part of the APP and they’ll be delivered to your door in less than an hour!
Hungry but not sure what you want to eat? Meituan has it all. And by all, I mean everything. McDonalds, Greek inspired restaurants, pizza hut, burgers, Chinese food, salads, fruit boxes, alcohol, coffee. Everything! And you can order from more than one place at the same time. Oh, and you can pay via WeChat!
As soon as I got to China I was set up with all of these APPs and I haven’t ever looked back. These, along with many others, have made my life here so much easier!