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Navigating Chinese Phone Apps

03 June 2019,  By  Julz

Planning a trip to China? If you have already downloaded  the Chinese Phone Apps  WeChat, Baidu maps, MeiTuan, and Taobao and you’re super confused. Here are some the first steps to make navigating Chinese apps easier.

Download Baidu Translate or Google Translate

I’ve been using Baidu translate for a long time, because it’s super easy to view copied text, but also has a camera translate function that’s straightforward and can view screenshots. Google translate hasn’t always had these functions for free, but that’s changing. If you have downloaded simplified Chinese on google translate, you should be able to use all functions without a VPN or even cell service.

This screenshot function will be a lifesaver later, when you’re struggling to use your newly downloaded apps, especially when being prompted to input your name and phone number. I also find it quite useful on food delivery apps, when the pictures aren’t quite clear enough.

WeChat is Life

WeChat is probably the single most important Chinese app you’ll use. Luckily, it can be set to English quite easily. Messaging is pretty straight forward, but you’ll also want to learn some other valuable features. If you’re living in China, and have a Chinese bank card, you can add it to your WeChat Pay account. Then, all through the same app, you can pay your rent to your landlord, pay for dinner, get money from your friend, and even pay the phone bill. Seriously, this is a game changer.

In the main chat page, you can use the + symbol and find either the scan function or money function. The scan function allows you to scan the QR code of a new friend, or the QR code of a business. “Business”, in this case, includes people selling fruit on the streets and veggies in wet markets. The money function instead gives you a QR code and barcode, which a store can scan to charge you for your items. Both are easy, some stores just work differently than others.

For paying rent or utilities bills, ask your landlord when you move in, they should be able to help!

Save your address and know your name

Many apps will require you to input your name, phone number, and possibly address, depending on the service. If you save your address in Chinese characters in your phone, it will always be an easy copy/paste away.

What do I mean by “know your name”? I mean know the name associated with your bank card. Because the person who set up your account may not have been a strong English speaker, your official name may be John Smith, JOHN SMITH, SMITHJOHN, JOHNSMITH, etc. I once knew a guy named Canadian Citizen on his bank card. For online accounts and apps, you won’t be able to link your bank card properly if you use the wrong permutation of your name, so be careful!

 I hope these tips have been helpful in navigating your newly bilingual phone. Good Luck!