When you travel to China, it is useful to know that Twitter and Facebook are both blocked there. So you may want to use some apps to get in touch with your friends and family.
WeChat and QQ are two convenient communication apps for travelers in China. You can use them to get in touch with your friends and family in your country, contact your tour guide in China, or meet new friends in China.
You can install them on your phone, computer, or tablet, and they are available for iOS or Android. The following introduction focuses on the app version for phones. Read on to find out what you can do with these two platforms.
These two apps provide the useful function of sending a text or voice message for free. This is useful for making new friends in China.
This is very useful if you have a tour guide or travel advisor in China. You can contact him/her in real time and talk with him/her for free.
Note that this function charges for data transmission but this is not a problem if you are in a Wi-Fi environment.
To sign up for a WeChat account, you can use a phone number. Download the app and input the information required. It's simpler than signing up for a QQ account.
To sign up for a QQ account, you can use a phone number or email account.
Once you have downloaded the program and opened it, there's a button to press on the interface to sign up for an account. It is free, and the procedure is very straightforward. Once you have your account, you're in, and you can start looking for new friends. You can check out all the options and discover some of the things you can do with it.
Becoming popular in China with incredible rapidity, WeChat is, in effect, QQ for mobile phones, but is well-adapted to them as an alternative means of communication. More and more foreign travelers are using WeChat now.
Don't know any Chinese characters? No problem. The app features a translation function. You can press the text message for about 2 seconds and select a language for translation help.
One useful smartphone-related addition is the "shake" function. With this, you can find other users nearby. In a Chinese city, you're likely to find dozens of people within just a few hundred meters. You may find a Chinese tourist or student in your area who is happy to make your acquaintance and to prepare you for your travels to come.
It's also very popular to pay via phone in China. Link your bank account details and you can make a "Quick Pay" without cash.
Available card type: Visa, MasterCard, JCB, American Express
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, a WeChat 'moment' is only visible to accounts on your WeChat friend list. There are no fan groups, only friends. So you can share pictures or short videos on your Moments screen. Your friends can comment, or give you a "like".
It's also special in that if two of your friends don't add each other, they are not able to see the comments between you. For example, A can't see the comments from B, if A and B are not friends on WeChat. So it has quite good privacy protection.
Also, your 'moment' can't be forwarded to another account's Moments screen.
The cute trademark penguin picture is as familiar to the Chinese as the Google logo is to foreigners. More than 200 million QQ accounts have been opened and, at times of peak usage, over 176 million people can be online. Nearly all of them are Chinese; that's a lot of possible new friends to choose from.
The international version of QQ offers several features that can be particularly useful.
It has an English language interface or French, German, Japanese, Korean, or Spanish if you would prefer to use one of those.
QQ's app is not that convenient for a translation function so we will explain how to use the translation function on computers.
At the bottom of any conversation window, you can open the 'Translate' button. Set it up to translate to and from your chosen language and Chinese, and — with some confusion along the way given the limitations of the automatic translation software — you're good to go. To translate replies, you have to copy-and-paste them into the 'Send message' window before hitting the button — a flaw in the design — but it's not difficult to do.
QQ comes packed with apps. There are the usual games, of course, but not all the apps are frivolous. Some link through to news sites and some to packages for learning Chinese. Another enables you to draw Chinese characters with your mouse, identify them, and learn their meaning.
Thanks to these you may — as many Chinese users do — find yourself using QQ for far more than just getting to know people. You can use it to get to know the country and its culture.
Using QQ's user-search function you can find new friends by location, gender and age, or even with their star sign and (a very Asian phenomenon) their blood type. More than that, you can join one of the numerous QQ groups. Many students want the opportunity to practice their English online, and there are many groups dedicated to English practice.
It's a great way to meet people. If you want to be more adventurous, there are groups dedicated to anything in which you may be interested.
To get you started, here are some of the QQ numbers of our English-speaking team at China Highlights. We'll be happy to help you out with any questions you may have, so feel free to contact us for information, or even just for a chat.
Lily Guo: 2355711207
Steven Zhao: 2355711154
Q-zone's function is similar to WeChat's Moments. But it's different in that everyone who is in your friend list can see the discussion and comments in your Q-zone. Your post can also be forwarded to another's Q-zone.
QQ and WeChat both provide feature-rich ways to meet the locals and to prepare yourself for your journey to China. Both are worth getting to know and exploring.
On the down side, QQ continues to be targeted primarily at the Chinese market and, from time to time, you may find yourself linking through to Chinese-only web pages or apps. Moreover, some features — such as the ability to see other users' Q-zones and their profile pages — appear and disappear with each new upgrade of QQ International.
As already mentioned, WeChat, aimed at the international market, loses some of its features to Internet blocking when in China itself.
However, with both programs these are only occasional frustrations. Overall, both can help you prepare for your trip to China, getting to know the country, its people, and its culture before you even leave home.
Are you planning your first trip to China? Our China social media and tourism savvy staff and guides are just who you need to remove any hassles, from bookings to communication. See our top first-timer tours below or contact us directly to customize your trip.