The French love the heart emoji.
Canadians prefer pizza—and the pile of poo.
And Americans? The land that gave the world the iPhone, the Declaration of Independence, and the Kinsey Report prefers emoji that depict technology, royalty, and… eggplants.
These preferences were revealed in a new report from SwiftKey, a software company that makes keyboards for iOS and Android phones. The report describes global trends in emoji usage and breaks them out by country and by language. Like nations themselves, it seems, emoji usage is also shaped by culture, climate, and geography.
What else did the report find? According to SwiftKey:
The most-used category of emoji used are “happy faces.” Happy faces, sad faces, and hearts make up more than 70 percent of global emoji usage.
While “happy faces” dominate the world, hearts rule in France—the majority of all emoji used in French (55 percent) are hearts. But Russia leads on what SwiftKey terms “Romance” emoji, like the lipstick lips and the couple kissing.
Generally, the European countries opt for hearts much more than their North American counterparts. (The Portuguese-language category below is data taken from Brazil, not Portugal.)
In all the following bar charts, emoji are ranked by one emoji symbol’s percent of all emoji usage for that nation.
The American diet mirrors American emoji usage. Americans use emoji that looks like meat—the burger and drumstick, for instance—two times as much as the global average. Australia uses more “vice” emoji—the gun, the clinking beer steins, the bag of money—more than any other English-speaking country, and Canada uses way more poop emoji than anyone else.
In terms of “happy” hand gestures, SwiftKey users in Brazil turn to the clapping emoji. And people in Malaysia love the thumbs up emoji.
Americans love pizza, but Canadians really love pizza. (SwiftKey mentions that, in their love for guns and pizza, Canadians seem to be more stereotypically American in their emoji usage than Americans are.)
A nation’s landscape—and even its natural history—affects its emoji usage too.
Arabic-language users type camels more than any other language type. And Australia, which once built the longest fence in the world to literally keep rabbits from eating their way too far west, uses more rabbit emoji than anywhere else. In fact, Australia leads the world in animal emoji usage.
Meanwhile, as hearts are to France, snow is to Russia. The nation turns to the icon more than any other country:
Some other tidbits from the report:
- The mostly Catholic and vastly Christian Brazil uses more than double the average of what SwiftKey terms “Western” religious emoji, such as the church and prayer hands.
- Americans use royal emoji (the crown, the princess) more than twice as often as users in the United Kingdom do. In fact, U.K. users are below the global average.
- The United States uses more LGBT-friendly emoji—including the rainbow—than any other country.
- Globally, the see-, hear-, and speak-no-evil monkeys as a category are used more than the booze emojis. The “violent” emoji—in which SwiftKey includes the gun and knife—and the clocks are also used more than the booze emoji.
And the “least used” category of emoji? It’s what SwiftKey calls “reading materials”—the book, the pile of books, the newspapers.
Some may take this as a sign of reading’s decline, especially as it’s in the context of super-pictographic emoji. But I think there’s a smaller cause for this: If you’re reading something and texting someone about it, you’re just going to type out the name of what you’re reading. You can send a friend the beer or cup of ramen emoji, and they’ll understand your meaning. But sending them a book emoji comes across as vague.
Finally, it’s worth noting the utility of the report itself. Emoji are one of this decade’s biggest changes to how computers handle text. As the Microsoft font programmer Simon Daniels writes, Unicode considers emoji “on par with the Latin alphabet and other writing systems.” Emoji are even used by the White House.
They’re also very hard to track. While the website Emojitracker uses Twitter data to calculate the popularity of individual icons in real-time, it only encompasses public Twitter data. It doesn’t include text messages, where a lot of the serious emoji action occurs.
But SwiftKey users type everything—texts and tweets and Tinder messages—with the app, so the company can examine public and private emoji usage. The developer says all analysis occurred in aggregate on anonymized datasets taken from its web-hosted predictive typing service, SwiftKey Cloud. It’s possible that this collection is the largest single database on emoji usage trends in existence: “More than one billion pieces of emoji data,” says SwiftKey, made up the final report.