Living in China using WeChat and Pleco

The Two Best Smartphone Apps for Living in China

Posted on Posted in Chinese Culture

Coming to live in a new country with a different language can be daunting, especially when making the journey by yourself. Thankfully technology has your back in WeChat and Pleco.

With these two smartphone apps you can not only be better prepared to conquer that language barrier, but also be able to make quick connections and friends in your new home.



Pleco is a free translation app available on both Android OS and iOS and works as your pocket dictionary squeezed into a little app on your phone.

When in a restaurant without pictures or an English menu, trying to read road signs, communicating with a cab driver, or even remembering how to write your Chinese name (if you choose to take one), Pleco will be the always-available language partner you were hoping for. Yes, always available—as in this app requires no Wi-Fi connection to translate your English-to-Chinese/Chinese-to-English needs.

Helpful hint – an upgraded version of Pleco will cost some money, but the added feature of being able to scan a character you don’t recognize instead of having to draw it out on your keyboard saves a lot of time and a lot of headaches if your handwriting is sub-par!



Hugely popular on the Mainland, WeChat is a made in China social network that combines the posting abilities of Facebook with the single-person or group-message platform of apps like Whatsapp and GroupMe.

The possibilities with this app seem limitless (see 5 tips to enhance your WeChat experience), but the overall purpose is simple: connect people. It’s faster than ‘friending’ on Facebook and less awkward than asking for someone’s phone number.

“Do you have WeChat?”, is a common way to end a conversation with someone you’ve newly met and would like to stay in touch with when living in China. It’s also available for Android and iPhone.


Living in China

You may find it harder to connect with your students here in China as they can come off shy and reserved, but in reality they are just as curious about you and your culture as you are of theirs. Reaching out to them to ask for advice on how to use all of the tricks WeChat offers can be that initial ice-breaker you need to feel comfortable with your students, and them feeling more open and comfortable towards you.

With these two apps in your back pocket, you can feel better equipped to handle some of the biggest challenges to living abroad. Pleco and WeChat will give your own skills and confidence an extra boost when forming those initial friendships or putting together your first sentence in Mandarin.

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Would you recommend any other smartphone apps for people living in China? Then leave a comment below.
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