The Chinese have been messaging each other in a way that almost puts texting to shame given how many accidents we’ve had from walking while texting or the often fatal driving while texting.
Rather than glue their eyes and attention to the screen for those crucial moments while they type, most Chinese people use voice messaging.
No, it’s not at all a new way of communicating, but voice messaging is now the norm on WeChat, the messaging app with over 500 million monthly users, according to Quartz.
Push-to-talk messaging’s growth in Asia is widely attributed to the difficulty of typing in Chinese. Vocally messaging people is just simpler and more personal, but also loud.
Specifically in China, the custom is more widely accepted than in other Chinese-speaking countries like Taiwan, where loud voice messaging in public would be frowned upon for being rude.
Thomas Luo, the founder of the leading Chinese tech blog Pingwest, told Quartz:
“Chinese and Taiwanese express themselves very differently. For me, I always speak loudly, even in my office. But Taiwanese people are more quiet.”
Like any culture, the Chinese adhere to specific formalities in communication that might otherwise be unacceptable elsewhere. In the digital age, voice messaging found its popularity from the internet cafe culture of the mid-2000s when gamers sent voice messages rather then texts. When mobile was introduced, those habits carried on.
Luo also attributed voice messaging habits to educational backgrounds:
“People that aren’t very well-educated will use voice messages no matter what, whether the sentences are long or only one second. But middle-class or well-educated people will send voice messages if they want to say something that is informal but also complicated. If it’s simple, they’ll just type.”
Would voice messaging in public be acceptable in a country like the U.S. where talking loudly on your phone in public isn’t that all unheard of? Maybe not in public, but it’s definitely the safer alternative when you are driving in the privacy of your car.