Emojis, WhatsApp and ‘XOXO’: How texting habits differ around the world
From how we say hello and goodbye, to shorthand, abbreviations, emoji use and even the platform people use to send messages, texting habits vary depending on where you are in the world.
“In countries where you would normally greet someone or say goodbye with a double or triple air kiss, then it’s very popular to end with a double ‘xx’ or an ‘xo’ or a short name for kisses,” said Claire Larkin, the English editor for Babbel magazine.
Babbel is a language-learning app that offers 15-minute lessons in 14 languages. The magazine supplements the app by providing studies on language, technology and culture.
“For most of Europe, even down to the Middle East and in parts of Australia, kisses are very popular as a sign off in person and in real life. But in North America, it’s a little more reserved.
“You don’t see these same kinds of habits crossing over unless you’re talking to your partner, your husband or maybe your best friend,” Larkin explained.
After studying global trends in modern communication, Babbel noticed a general downward trend in phone calls as different methods of texting continue to rise.
“As younger people are using their phones more, then people are not calling as much,” Larkin said. “I think part of it is that there’s a decorum involved — you have to call, you have to make chit chat, then move on to the scenario, make your goodbyes and go off the call — but you could just send a single text and it’s not a whole conversation.”
Watch: Claire Larkin, the English Editor for Babbel Magazine, talks about how texting, dictating and emoji habits differ depending on where people live in the world.
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Geography and culture are big factors in the amount of emoji and Bitmoji use.
“We see that language is very expressive. We look at the United States and Canada — these are pretty open, smiley societies — emoji use is very prevalent.
“Emojis are also very popular in Japan to kind of convey, supplement [cute] things,” Larkin said.
“But then if you look at Russia… In Russia, even when you text your friends, it’s still quite… professional and formal. There’s much more strict rules around those societal interactions so emoji use isn’t as prevalent as it is in other places.”
Watch: Maci Peterson, CEO and Co-Founder of “On Second Thought” discusses the new app that can let you take back text messages. (June 15, 2015)
Bitmojis, personalized cartoon avatars, are most popular in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Brazil.
“Societies that are really individualistic… really like Bitmoji and it just adds another dimension to the way they communicate with other people,” Larkin said. “But outside of these four countries, it hasn’t spread as much.”
The kind of alphabet used also plays a role in how we communicate and how common typing is versus dictating text.
“In terms of typing things out, texting is very popular in places that use the Latin alphabet,” she said.
“It’s much harder to type out a logogram-type alphabet, like Chinese characters or Kanji Japanese characters, so speaking in and recording shorter messages is actually much more popular because it just speeds things up,” Larkin said.
“WeChat — China’s version of WhatsApp — sends around 6 billion voice messages every single day.”
Another huge factor in the platform we use to send messages? Money.
“Some of the really big English-speaking countries — Canada, United States, Australia — still really love Facebook Messenger and iPhone message. This is our bread and butter. We don’t really use texting apps that much. But if you go to almost all of Europe and Central and South America, everybody’s using WhatsApp,” Larkin said.
“It’s definitely a price motivator. In some countries, it can be up to a $1 USD to send a SMS message so WiFi is much cheaper.”
Watch: It was 25 years ago that the world’s first text message was sent. The man who sent it now lives in Canada. Mike Armstrong reports (Dec. 3, 2017).
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