Chinese and their Photos

Sep 29, 2014


With the advancement of technology, it is getting much easier to share images and photos with anyone in the world.

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"Here we go again. Starbucks barista got my name wrong"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3061" align="aligncenter" width="300"]

“OMG, this burger is amaaaaaazing!!!”[/caption]

If you think this has dramatically changed your world, multiply that impact by a thousand times and that's how this shift in the social media landscape has changed the lives of Chinese.

From time to time, my friends are telling me stories (or complaining) about the Chinese taking pictures of everything, literally E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. 

In restaurants, you have probably come across Chinese customers taking pictures of their food. A friend told me she saw a group of Chinese tourists who went to a very high-end restaurant in the Maldives, ordered the food, took a snap of them, had a few bites and left, leaving most of their food untouched. She was shocked. 

Why are Chinese so obsessed with images and photos sharing? And what is the social media implication of this?


Part of the reasons why Chinese are so obsessed with pictures potentially comes down to the origin of Chinese characters. 

The majority of the characters evolved from the image of the object the author was trying to express. 


Characters can then combine with each other to create a new character. This is how the enormous collection of Chinese characters was created. 

As a result, Chinese tend to be comfortable with images and use their photographic memory, as this has been exercised from an early age when they learnt to write.

Chinese characters themselves are a type of art already. Calligraphy is a very good example.



Chinese love new technology (particularly Apple products for some reason), something you can say about everyone, but what is it so special about Chinese?

 When Chinese love something and want to do something, they go crazy about it. They always want to be the first one to get their hands on these new gadgets. 

On the day of iPhone 6 pre-order, my Facebook news feed was covered with screenshots of "Thank you for your order. Your item will be delivered to you in 4-6 weeks". Guess what? All these news feed are posted by Hong Kong-ers. 

This technology wave hit the Chinese community more than any other. 


You might have noticed some Chinese are very hardworking and sometimes very competitive, mainly as a result of the competitive culture in China; there are 1.35 billion competitors.

Chinese are raised in an environment where everyone is comparing themselves to their neighbour. They always want to stay ahead of others (this might also explain why Chinese are so good at jumping queues) and want to be the best. 

In Hong Kong, the grading system of the public exam is based on normal distribution, every student competes to be the best in the class. After school, they go to study groups, or music lessons in the evening, and this is even more extreme for students in China. During my time volunteering in China, I had a glimpse of how tough their lives are:

7am: Wake up

7:30am: Breakfast

8:30: Morning exercise (aka brain-wash activities)

9am: Class

12 noon: Lunch

2pm: Class

5pm: Class dismiss

6pm: Dinner

7pm: Revision in library

9pm: back to dormitory

10pm: lights off - bed time (some students told me they have a torch so that they can study when the lights go off)

 This schedule repeated itself day after day with little concept of what a “weekend” is 

How about adults? Most people living in Tier 1 cities in China will likely own at least one Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Channel bag. 

This is all the result of the competitive culture that exists in China, and the desire to be seen to be successful. The same happens in the digital world of social media as well.

  1. Number of friends on Renren (Chinese version of Facebook)
  2. Number of followers on Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter)
  3. Trips overseas
  4. Meals in nice restaurants to post on my newsfeed (how often do you see people take a picture of their Big Mac)
  5. New handbag/ watch/ outfit

What do you have to prove these? Pictures!!


Most people would agree that Chinese are one of the largest spenders in the world. 

"Glocalisation" is inevitable. Chinese social media is making sharing pictures much easier. On Wechat, you can share pictures in your moments (news feed). On Sina Weibo, you can share an entire album of 9 photos in one post. 

Setting up a WeChat and Weibo account for your company is just the first step. The most important thing is to be familiar with and utilise these platforms in a creative way to gain a competitive edge over your competitors. 

Chinese are particularly interested in new technology.

How would you make use of these characteristics to attract this consumer group with more and more disposable income?

What image would you want to create for your brand in China?

How would you fit into the Chinese culture and what can you bring to the table?

Do you understand the culture enough to gain a share in this untapped market?

How do you reflect these in a creative way to be the next trend in China? 

Article: Alvin Tien