WeChat is becoming popular

WeChat, or 微信(WeiXin) in Chinese, is getting more and more popular in China, as well as worldwide. WeChat is developed by Tencent, the same company developed QQ, the most popular desktop IM tool in mainland China.

Compared to QQ, WeChat focuses on mobile users. It provides client on nearly all popular mobile systems, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian and Blackberry OS. As mobile communication in very common nowadays in China, WeChat spreads very quickly. All my friends at my age are using WeChat now. Major feature of WeChat includes sending multimedia messages to friends. The 'multimedia' means you may send pictures, videos and voices. It also supports live video chat among friends.

WeChat also provides a web interface for user to chat through desktop browsers. Here is the login page. It requires WeChat mobile client, in order to scan a QR code and perform the login process.

Visit WeChat website to get up-to-date information.

We use "88" as "byebye" in text messages

When chatting with friends through text message, we always use "88" to say "bye bye". The reason is simple. The number 8 (pronounced as "bā") in Mandarin sounds like "bye". Just like western people texting "BB", we texting "88", at the end of conversation. It is also acceptable if you texting a series of "8", like "88888888". It also means "bye", just you are probably drunk 😛

There is an interesting thing though. Since Arabic numbers are widely accepted around the world, sometimes people get confused and think western people are also use "88" for "bye bye". I heard several times that someone send "88" to a foreign friend. The foreign friend obviously gets confused, "what the hell is 88", and then the Chinese guy thinks "why don't you understand that? It's Arabic number.".

Why KFC is more popular than McDonalds in China?

It is interesting that KFC is more popular in China than McDonalds, while this is not true in many other countries.

So why is that?

It is probably (I can't confirm though) because of the names of these two restaurants. KFC and McDonalds both have Chinese names in China. I guess they have to do so when they first came to China 20 years ago. The Chinese name of McDonalds is 麦当劳, which is a phonetic translation (i.e., translation by its pronunciation). It is a normal translation that helps people who don't know English to remember the pronunciation of McDonalds.

The name of KFC is a little bit tricky. It is 肯德基, which basically the phonetic translation of Kentucky. The "Fried Chicken" part is gone. However, the last word "基" (meaning "base") sounds the same as "鸡" (meaning "chicken") in Chinese. This helps more than the name of McDonalds: not only let people know the pronunciation, but also tell them what KFC sells.

Here comes another fun fact. KFC and McDonalds are NOT considered as junk food in China. (We do have "junker" food.) They are considered as mid range restaurants (when I was young), and they are popular among children and teenagers. The perception is now changing, but not so quickly since China is a big country.

When young people ask their parents for a meal at KFC (or McDonalds), parents usually don't know what McDonalds sells, but they do know what KFC sells. Since old people don't usually take risks, they are more willing to eat at KFC.

The quality of food and service in KFC and McDonalds are on the same level. Just because of the name, KFC becomes more and more popular.

Tipping in mainland China

In short, tipping is not expected in mainland China. No matter in what situation you are, restaurant, hotel or taxi, you don't need to tip at all.

Tipping is not a part of Chinese culture. Waitstaff do not expect tip. Instead, in some large restaurants and hotels, the tip (usually 15%) is already added to the price.

People may get confused if you tip them. For example, if you leave a tip, like the change leftover, on the table after you finish a meal, the waiter probably will chase you and try to give you the money back. If you really want to tip, you have to explicitly tell the waiter to keep the change (or something like that). In large cities like Shanghai, waitstaff may get used to tip due to large amount of international travellers.

The bottom line is, in mainland China, it is totally not necessary to leave tip.

The Pin Yin System

There may be many Pin Yin systems being used in China including Hongkong and Taiwan, but for Mandarin, there is only one widely spread. It is called Han Yu Pin Yin (汉语拼音) in ISO standard. I will talk about Han Yu Pin Yin a little bit in this post. (All "Pin Yin" below refer to "Han Yu Pin Yin")

Pin Yin is a system to help people pronounce Chinese characters. That is to say, Chinese character itself doesn't contain information of pronunciation. The mapping between the character writing and its pronunciation is "hard coded". In most case, there is no way to figure out how to pronounce a Chinese character without Pin Yin. I guess this is why Chinese language is difficult to learn.

Pin Yin is consisted of 25 English letters (except for "v") plus a special letter "ü". The letter "ü" is pronounced almost the same as the "ü" in German. In some cases, "ü" can be written as "u" but pronounces as "ü". In the input and output of Computer, sometime we use "v" to replace "ü" since the latter is not on a standard US keyboard.

The mapping from Pin Yin to Chinese character is a 1 to many mapping. It is ambiguous when Pin Yin is translated to Chinese characters, especially for names. Pin Yin is only used for learning Chinese. We don't use it in daily life. As a result, most Pin Yin you may see are names of Chinese people. When we do registration in English, we always write our names in the form of Pin Yin. Due to the high possibility of collision, you may see many Chinese people share the same name, but in fact, their names are difference in Chinese.