Cultural Factors to Consider When Localizing Emojis


video game localization

Whether it’s text messages, games, or articles – emojis are part of our everyday conversations. Currently, there are over 3,000 emojis in the Unicode Standard. Consider some of these fascinating emoji stats:


  • The face with tears of joy (😂) is one of the most popular emojis
  • The red heart (❤️) is a close second in terms of popularity
  • One out of five tweets on Twitter uses an emoji
  • There are 5 billion emojis sent out on Facebook Messenger each day


While it may be obvious to you what each emoji means, it might not be so clear if you asked someone else in a different culture. That’s why it’s vital you consider the cultural implications when localizing emojis into a different market.

Why You Should Use Emojis

Emojis are important for a variety of reasons. The main one is engagement. In fact, studies show an increase of up to 57% in engagement on social media posts with emojis than posts without. Higher conversion rates are similarly tied to the use of emoji.


Emojis also add a more humanizing touch to your messaging. There is a depth and added dimension to these pictures that help express ideas that words alone wouldn’t be able to convey.

Emoji Meaning in Different Cultures

So, we know we should be using emoji in our communications. But, we can’t assume that emojis mean the same thing to different audiences. For example:


Thumbs Up (👍): In most cultures (including in North America), the thumbs up implies approval. In the Middle East, countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and West Africa will interpret that as “Up Yours” (essentially the middle-finger).


Hand waving (👋): To most of us, hand waving means “hello” or “goodbye.” The wave in a Chinese context, however, could mean the ending of a friendship.


Okay sign (👌): The okay sign in Brazil and Turkey is also considered an insult, or the middle-finger.


Horn sign (🤘): North Americans typically use this hand gesture in rock concerts or other music settings (i.e. “Rock on!”). In countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and others, this symbol indicates that their partner has cheated on them.


Localizing Emojis

It’s important to understand the lay of the land when it comes to emoji usage in your targeted area of localization. Different countries or cultures may prefer certain emojis over another. For example:


  • French users tend to use the heart emoji (❤️) a lot
  • Arabic speakers like using flowers or plant (🌺🌻)
  • Americans are the biggest users of LGBT (🌈👬👭)


Emojis are best used to complement the text. Never use emojis exclusively to convey a message. In addition, try to avoid emojis with hand gestures. As you can see from above, the same hand gesture can have very different meanings in another context.

iGlobe: Localization Agency

Localizing your game into another language can be complex. Cultural, linguistic, and technological factors can all be barriers to a high-quality translation.


iGlobe is a localization agency that offers localization audits and LocQA services. We’ll work with you to ensure your game is fit for the intended market. Contact us today to learn more!

Tel:+1 604 355 3023