Foreigners on WeChat

How frequently do expats use WeChat?

Last Updated on May 22, 2024

If you enjoy reading our articles but don’t live in China, you might wonder why so much of our content is focused on WeChat.

Well, in the same way that it’s pretty much impossible for foreigners to avoid ever using Facebook, be it in a personal or professional capacity, WeChat has absolutely taken China by storm and locals aren’t the only ones using it.

We’ll spare you the usual numbers underlining the popularity of WeChat in China, it’s a well-known fact nowadays that WeChat is China’s biggest app in terms of MAU and usage, as today’s piece will focus on a specific set of users who should be of interest to most of our readers – expats in China.

Those of you who’ve never set foot in China might imagine that most foreigners stick with Facebook, although it requires using a VPN, and don’t use WeChat nearly as much as the locals. Believe it or not, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Not only has WeChat become a quintessential aspect of life in China, you need it to chat with your colleagues, pay your electricity or even split a bill with your friends at a restaurant, but on top of that most foreigners living here would probably tell you that they genuinely prefer WeChat to Facebook.

No joke, some people have a very hard time dealing with the fact they’ll no longer be able to scan a code to make a payment once they leave China.

Want to know just how popular WeChat is among expats? A brief infographic released by Tencent in May has shed some more light on the usage of the app by foreigners living in China, and their findings are particularly interesting.


Foreigners use WeChat more than locals

If there’s one lesson that we can take from Tencent’s report, it’s that foreigners in China are out-Wechatting China’s most active users.

You can check out their brief infographic below, but before you make too many assumptions, keep in mind that according to this report, “expats” refers to all WeChat users in China who are using a non-Chinese interface.

Additionally, “typical users” only actually refers to Chinese users born between 1980 and 1995. For that reason, the data isn’t 100% reliable but shouldn’t be too far off either.


So what can we take from this?

  • Non-Chinese WeChat users based in China send on average 60% more text messages than “typical users”.
  • Expats in China make 42% more audio calls than their Chinese counterparts.
  • Non-Chinese WeChat users even make more video calls than “typical users”. 13% more to be precise.
  • Although it wasn’t included in this part of the infographic, Tencent even went on to confirm that on average, foreign WeChat users living in China send 10 hongbao a month.

As interesting as it may be to learn that foreigners actually use WeChat more than locals, be it to text, call or make a video call (hardly unsurprising seeing as many foreigners use WeChat ahead of Skype to call their family), what’s even more interesting is the fact that 64.4% of foreigners on WeChat use the WeChat Pay function.

Now that number might sound high to those of you who live abroad, but we’re actually surprised it’s not more than that.

The remaining 35.6% most probably use Alipay instead, or just never got around to linking their credit card to their WeChat account.

Moving on from the specifics of the report, Tencent hardly ever release foreign-specific data, so what’s their agenda?

Well, Tencent announced last month that WeChat Pay would be coming to the U.S. thanks to a partnership with Silicon Valley-based mobile payment startup CITCON, and when it comes to business, there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

WeChat is laying down the groundwork for its international expansion, and it certainly looks like this report is their way of showing foreigners abroad that expats have embraced WeChat, mainly in an effort to convince Americans to switch to WeChat Pay once the service is launched.


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