Screenshots of popular Internet memes interwoven with Web speak - Web chat lingo that is popular among young Chinese.
Screenshots of popular Internet memes interwoven with Web speak - Web chat lingo that is popular among young Chinese.

When saying 'haha' does not mean you're laughing in China

ASEAN+ December 17, 2017 14:00

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Hehe, it's not funny at all Do not use "hehe" to denote laughter. To Chinese netizens, "hehe" can connote contempt. "This is a cold response and suggests that the user despises me," said postgraduate student Simon Li. "I won't use it, unless I'm purposely mocking my friends."

As for "haha", it is seen as a perfunctory response where the user is not really interested - it's as good as telling the other party to get lost.

"I don't find 'haha' offensive, but I usually won't use it. I will try to use as many 'ha' as possible to show I'm genuinely laughing," said Mr Li.

Refrain from responding with a single word

Replying using a single "En" (meaning okay) or "Orh" (meaning noted) is extremely unfriendly and indicates that you want to end the conversation. Always use "En, en" or "Orh, orh" if you want to carry on chatting with the other party.

Not all smileys are created equal Youngsters also generally avoid using the smiley emoji, which they describe as "strange" and "vague". To truly express one's happiness, different people have different preferences. Some prefer the shy smiley, others the wide-grin smiley.

Ms Huang Yonglin said the smiley face with a waving hand emoji is one that she swears against. "It means farewell, I won't see you again, and our friendship will end here," she said. "The older folks in my family like my grandparents will send it to me, to genuinely mean goodbye or good night.

"My teacher will sometimes use it too. I feel upset just looking at it. I understand they don't know the underlying meaning to it. But I'd still feel uncomfortable receiving it in text messages."

Ways to end a conversation tactfully

When the other party tells you he or she is going to eat or shower, it is usually a polite way of ending the conversation. Please do not ask why is he or she having a meal at 3pm. When you receive several Internet memes in quick succession, it also means the other party would like to end the conversation.

Messages such as text, emojis and Internet memes are always preferred over voice messages

Visual aids such as emojis and memes can relieve the nervousness or sense of unfamiliarity of people who are chatting virtually. It helps contextualise the meaning of the text in a more vivid way as the parties chatting cannot see one another's expressions and body language.

Youngsters tend to avoid sending voice messages, especially with people they don't know well. "It's an intrusion... They can't see the messages and got to go listen," said Li.

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