What Does That WeChat Emoji Mean?

Like it or not, emojis have become an essential part of communicating with others. Sure, they may seem childish, but without them, you can come off as serious, boring or downright scary.

Due to cultural differences, emojis have a chance to cause confusion and should be used strategically. Let’s look at some common WeChat emojis, their meanings and how they might be misunderstood.

The “Facepalm” and “Lol” emojis are among the most used. They are basically updated versions of the legacy emojis “Chuckle” and “Laugh.” Their versatility is where they shine, as they let others know you are joking and not being serious. They are also accepted widely across different cultures.

“Smirk” is a creepier version of the legacy emoji “Tongue.” While in the West these emojis can be playful and flirty, be careful using them in China. Using one of these emojis at the wrong time may inadvertently hit the self-destruct button on a potential new romance.

The “Smart” emoji, a smile pointing a finger, simply means you know what the other person is thinking, but you are not fully on board. If you receive this emoji, back off a bit on whatever you were proposing.

There is a class of new emojis which was released at the beginning of 2020. They are still developing in their usage, but some are coming into their own. These include “Doge,” “Emm” and “Onlooker.”

Let’s start with “Doge.” This emoji is not to be confused with a cat due to the pointy ears; it is a dog. “Doge” serves as a visual response when someone says something interesting.

The “Emm” emoji, seen as a man with a beard, is used when you need to reply but cannot find the words. It was ambiguous when released, but now means you are speechless.

The “Onlooker” is interesting. A Westerner would naturally perceive watermelons are on the mind of the sender. In China, this the equivalent of breaking out the popcorn and watching a drama unfold, like a fight or a calamitous event.

With more and more emojis coming into existence every year, it is not hard to imagine a future where we communicate exclusively with emojis, forgoing words entirely. A little effort today can help prepare you for the world of tomorrow.