I’m calling this Wechat Moments (1) as I imagine this will be the first of many miscommunications, misunderstandings or strange things that happen on Wechat. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Wechat. It’s an incredibly popular social media app and is huge in China where Facebook is banned. It has an interface like Whatsapp for chatting and voice messages. You can also send animated stickers, photos, music etc. Then there’s your ‘Moments’, which acts like your Facebook wall where you can upload photos and/or statuses, as well as sharing articles by companies that publish regularly. There’s a part where you can Shake your phone and chat to anyone else in the world who happens to be shaking at that moment, use GPS to chat to People Nearby and you can play games too.
Because it’s so popular and used by pretty much everyone in China, people will ask you for your Wechat ID to continue your friendship. People that ask for your Wechat can vary from your actual friends and classmates, other students walking around campus, your teachers, to strangers on the bus who want to be friends with a foreigner.
The fashionable thing is to have your profile picture of 1) someone other than you 2) a flower or 3) a cartoon caricature. It’s also cool to have your screen name as something other than your name so when people add you, sometimes it takes a while to figure out who it is that you’re talking to.
I got a friend request from LU yesterday, the picture was of a small Chinese child and I didn’t know who this person was. Here is our conversation:
LU: How was your weekend?
Me: Fine, yours
I wasn’t going to give this Lu character any actual information until I knew who they actually were. I’ve had some strange spam messages come through before and I didn’t know if this was spam.
LU: Not bad, also hehe
LU: Did you go and play with your friends?
Me: Yes, you?
Again, one word answers seemed the best way to go with this.
LU: I was working
LU: I didn’t go out
Me: Oh, it’s like that (said in Chinese internet slang)
By this time, I looked on LU’s Wechat moments and realised that he’s my Chinese teacher, here at university. So this time it’s not a stranger trying to sell me gynaecological treatments.
LU: Haha, you really can speak Chinese
LU: Where do you live?
This is where it started to get a bit strange, I didn’t want to tell him my whole address so simply replied
Me: In the international student dorms
I wasn’t going to ask where he lived.
LU: Ok, not bad
LU: Can I see one of your pictures?
Because I want to fit in to Chinese society, my profile picture isn’t me, it’s this cute picture of a panda in a panda cap.
Me: So you want me to send you a photo of me?
LU: Yes, send me one so I can see you
LU: Your level of Chinese really isn’t bad at all
LU: You could directly study a Masters in Chinese
Me: *sends picture*
Me: I haven’t thought of studying a Masters
LU: Oh, not bad
LU: Are you married?
It’s definitely weird now, he’s asked where I live, if I’m married and I’ve just sent him a photo. What if he tries to marry me off to someone?
Me: No, why do you ask?
LU: Just thought I’d ask, hehe
Me: In our culture, we don’t usually directly ask these sorts of questions…
LU: Oh, sorry
LU: Chinese people usually ask these questions, I’m really sorry
Me: It’s ok, don’t worry
The conversation then continued by him asking me to help teach his 3 year old son English, as he’s in nursery and they don’t have English classes. I said I was interested but still don’t know my timetable and if I’ll do other activities in the afternoon as I don’t want to commit to teaching my teacher’s son from the beginning and then encounter difficulties or more awkward moments. He said we’ll discuss it another day.