The Functional Foreigner WeChat Masterclass

Article by XIANEASE

This new series will highlight an essential app or other technology that will help to make your life better while living in China. Though several of these will require a minor knowledge of Chinese to navigate, it is possible to get through with just a rudimentary understanding of the language. This one, luckily, does not require much if you download the English version.

WeChat is an absolute essential when it comes to life in China. Growing from a simple messaging app to a veritable Swiss Army Knife of the app landscape, the app is an ever evolving blend of various essential functionalities that has permeated practically every aspect of life. Most people are familiar with the basic chat functions, stickers, voice chat, and the like, but few people really delve deep into some of the lesser known functions of WeChat. To better explore some of these mysteries, we have put together some of the features that you might not be aware of in Tencent’s WeChat.

Translate More Than Chinese (Translate)

WeChat’s built in translation system is pretty straight forward. Long pressing on a message will bring up a menu which, once you finally get to it, will allow you to translate most messages and WeChat moments from Chinese into English. Something that you might not be aware of is that the feature doesn’t just translate Chinese, but will work with any message that it is able to read. So whether you want to follow along with a multi-lingual chat or decrypt a mysterious WeChat moment, you can do so with ease.

Find that Song (Shake)

WeChat’s Shake feature doesn’t get a lot of attention, probably for good reason. The Chatroulette like feature is a bit odd for most people, and it typically is only used by the bored and lonely. However, under the shake tab, there is “Music” option, that allows you to shake your phone in order to find the song that you are currently listening to, similar to Shazam or a host of other standalone apps. We nearly didn’t include this one though, because it doesn’t actually work that well. It does OK for Chinese songs, but non-Chinese or instrumental music seems to confuse it. Still, it’s a mildly interesting feature that you can play with for a while.

Split the Bill (WeChat Pay)

Splitting the bill can be quite the hassle, especially since many a persons’ math skills quickly atrophied upon leaving school. This feature make splitting up a restaurant check a breeze. After paying for a meal (or anything really), go to the payment message and click on the first option 发起群收款 (even on the English version, this menu is still in Chinese). This will then take you to a screen entitled, split the bill, where you will select a group in which to drop the bill. From next menu, you can select whether each person will pay the same amount or different amounts. You can also select who will be involved in paying the bill. If you select different amounts, you will then be able to assign different values to each person. You will also be able to keep track of these transactions to see which one of your friends is trying to get out of paying.

Remember that Important Message (Remind)

Have you ever had a WeChat conversation with someone in which you promised to do something, only to be left scrolling endlessly through the million and one chats that you have running, trying to find the details once again or, worse, forgetting it entirely? Do to the constant stream of conversation, this is all too easy to do. Luckily, WeChat comes with a Remind feature, which allows you to set a reminder for a specific message. Simply long press on the message you would like to remind yourself about and set the reminder for anywhere from an hour to a year. When your time arrives, a new chat entitles “Service Messages” will pop up at the top you chat list containing the message that you selected. Clicking on the message will take you to exactly that point in whatever conversation you were having. No more scrolling.

Connect to your Computer (Web WeChat, Desktop Program)

This is the one that might just be the most useful feature of all, and it is one that is used in the xianease office all the time. If you enter into a browser or go to download the standalone WeChat app, you will be able to access your WeChat account via your computer. This is great for transferring files and photos back and forth between your phone and computer, without the need of any pesky cables. In addition, chatting via keyboard is simply a much smoother experience for many, especially for those long WeChat debates. This will also allow you to interact with links and web pages in a much better manner, allowing you to open pages in your favorite web browser. There are some things that you can’t do via the program (such as interact with payments and certain kinds of messages), but overall it provides a faster and more flexible way to communicate via WeChat.

Many Mini-Programs (Mini-Programs)

Recent years have seen the rise of the WeChat mini-program, which can be used by a variety of businesses ad official accounts to have a slight more open and better managed experience for their users. One benefit of these mini-programs is that they will often replace standalone apps for certain business that can free up additional space on your phone. In addition, many of these programs will allow you to manage memberships and membership benefits for these business, so you don’t need to individually keep track of them. Some restaurants have done away with paper menus entirely and now have options for you to order, eat, and pay without having to wait on the staff to come over. Add in all the other functionalities of WeChat, such as maps, payment options and the like, and you will have a vastly smoother interaction with many companies around the city. You can access mini-programs by sliding down on the main chat menu or by going to Discover>Mini-Programs. They will even allow you to search for mini-programs near your location, useful for discovering places you might not have previously been aware of.

Take all the Notes (Favorites)

If you’ve ever used a program like Evernote or Microsoft’s OneNote, then you are going to love this. The Favorites feature, accessible by long pressing any content or by accessing the menu for links and webpages (top-right corner, three dots). Once you have favorited something, it will be stored under Me>Favorites. Accessing this will allow you to sort by the type of content (Media/ Links/ Files/ Music/ Chats/ Audio/ Notes/ Places) to quickly access your desired content. In addition, by clicking the “+” in the top left hand corner you will be able to add photos, bookmark locations, record voice messages, and type out to-do lists and other notes to yourself that you will be able to access quickly through this menu. While it may not have some of the more robust features of a dedicated note –taking app, it is free and it integrates well with much of the content that you will access here. Also, favorited media will not expire, so you will be able to access it for a long time to come.

There are new features being added all the time to WeChat, and as it integrates further and further into peoples’ lives, we can expect its functionality to follow suite. If you are living in China, using WeChat is essential, and we hope that this guide has help you take better advantage of this ever-expanding tool. If you have another feature that you think is useful or another app that you would like us to cover, let us know by emailing us at or by sending us a message at our official account on WeChat: XIANEASE发现西安.