Location: dream destination

By Xi Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/13 16:48:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

An expat recently released a post on the online conversation forum Reddit saying he noticed that local Chinese always have a random waiguo (foreign) city listed on their personal WeChat profile that tells which region they are in, and he is curious about the reason behind it.

Many other foreign Reddit users echoed his thoughts, with one of them commenting that he sees Andorra a lot and had to look it up.

The post provoked a ripple in my heart. While I am based in Beijing, I actually use Yemen as my region in my WeChat personal profile. And after doing a random check on both my Chinese and foreign friends' WeChats, I found that all foreigners use their home country or where they currently live, but as the Reddit user posted, most of my Chinese WeChat friends use the name of an exotic country although they are in China, such as Andorra, Iceland, Puerto Rico, Eritrea or the Dominican Republic.

For me, Yemen is an inside joke between me and my two good friends. We are all fans of the US sitcom Friends (1994-2004). In one episode, Chandler wants to get rid of his ex-girlfriend Janice, so he made up a story that his company was transferring him overseas and unconsciously says they are sending him to Yemen. Finally, he had to spend more than $2,000 to fly to Yemen and even gives Janice the fake address No.15 Yemen Road, Yemen.

Whenever my two friends and I mention this scenario, we repeat the fake address and burst into laughter. The word Yemen is not only a name of a country but a resonance between us and a sign of the common interest we share. They also have Yemen as their region on WeChat as well.

On Zhihu, China's Quora-like platform, Chinese internet users have also asked the same question about the WeChat regions. The answers include: "The place must have a special meaning," "It makes the person look mysterious," and "They don't want to reveal too much personal information in a virtual space."

I asked two WeChat friends why they used fake regions. One explained that she is afraid of her personal information being leaked, adding that she changed her gender on WeChat to male. 

My other friend told me that she wrote Denmark because it is her dream country to visit. In her early 20s and living and working in a small city, she said she has never gone abroad before.

"Many of my friends in the city have a dream country like I do, although we are not sure whether one day we can go there," she said.

With material life starting to improve, it has been a trend for Chinese people to travel abroad. However, it is still not as common for them as it is for those from developed countries.

China has an enormous number of WeChat users, but not all of them have the chance to get a glimpse of the outside world.

But isn't it sweet for one to have a dream to pursue? The "fake regions" on WeChat profiles may seem ridiculous, but there might be a nice story or a dream hidden inside the country's name.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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