Even though I have only had limited travel experiences in Asian countries like China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, it is evident that there are plenty of cases where QR code is much more pervasive in applications like transport and retail compared to western countries like US, Australia and UK.

Is there any specific reason for these differences, at least when it comes to anything that can be explained by technology and business constraints rather than cultural differences? And if it is really an issue of cultural differences, what is the reason for it and how does it apply in countries where there is a good mix of eastern and western cultures like Singapore and Hong Kong?

UPDATE: Due to the measures taken by the government authorities in countries like Australia to introduce mandatory roll-out of digital contact tracing processes, QR Codes are actually becoming part of the 'normal' daily life. Whether this spreads to other aspects of online and social activities remains to be seen.

  • Just to observe that going by past QR questions this difference in adoption has been going a long time.
    – PhillipW
    Feb 10, 2021 at 16:33
  • @PhillipW that's true, but I can't say for other countries although where I live in Australia this has seen such a dramatic change during the recent pandemic that it is almost the only single driver that I have seen for its adoption.
    – Michael Lai
    Feb 10, 2021 at 21:55
  • 1
    Super app is widely used in Asian countries compared to Western. The adoption of QR scanning by these super apps eases the implementation: customers use a super app to scan the QR code for various services under the umbrella.
    – intnnn
    Mar 30, 2022 at 2:22

2 Answers 2


It has mostly to do with whatever technology first took off. But there are claims of cultural amplification as well.

It is generally considered that the launch of Alipay (that used QR codes for payment) in 2010 is what kicked off widespread usage of QR codes in China. WeChat Pay joined a few years later. Suddenly, everyone could just print (or display) a small QR sticker: "pay me instantly by scanning this thing". Every street merchant started to display codes (sometimes two, for different payment systems). They've become common.

In contrast, card payments were widespread in most of the countries in the West by then (magnetic long ago, chip EMV at about that time, contactless slightly later). QR never took off seriously; phones adopted NFC as a way of initiating payments, which employs the infrastructure of the contactless cards (at the vendor's side).

The difference explains the lack of NFC in many Chinese smartphones (sometimes even higher-end ones) - a feature which is now considered essential in many other countries.

There is a cultural context as well. This article claims that Asian ads and public displays rarely show (or spell out) a URL: indeed, it's much easier to point your phone at a QR code than to try to decode and remember a line in a foreign script (and using a Chinese URL is not easier). Even the very idea of (a textual) hyperlink may be foreign to many.


You will see more QR codes wherever marketing and advertising people think the population has more access to QR code readers (basically any modern mobile phone). So it might be easier to conclude that you will see more QR codes in urban or touristy places.

Since you've only traveled to touristy places, you might conclude that the whole country is like that.

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