Perfect Your Hi and Bye: 8 Essential Tips for Chinese Greetings

Feeling awkward when first speaking in Chinese? Don’t worry. We are here to help you know Chinese greetings so that you can speak like a native and impress your Chinese friends. Click here to know more about Chinese Learning. And below are 8 tips for Chinese greetings to help you through:

1. About “你好” (nǐhǎo) and “您好” (nín hǎo)

The first thing Chinese learners need to know must be how to make a Chinese greeting. And you guys have already known “你好” (nǐhǎo), right? However, nǐ hǎo is only for formal occasions, like meeting your colleagues for the first time. And “您好” (nín hǎo) is even more polite and formal, which is better to use when you meet an elder or your boss.

2. What actions should I do when I meet a Chinese for the first time?

  • Hug?
  • Kiss on the face?
  • Shake hands?

Nowadays, most Chinese people know that these are foreigners’ greeting ways. But in China, it’s not common. Some people don’t mind, more for young generations in a big city.  So you’d better ask them if you can do these when you first meet them. You can just wave your hand to say hi and give a brief self-introduction.

Also, when you shake hands with a Chinese, DO NOT offer a firm handshake, but please be gentle. Because most Chinese regard a firm handshake as a sign of hostility.

3. About gifts

If you want to give a gift to your Chinese friend, DO NOT give any following things as a gift:

  • Clocks

Why? Because if you give a clock as a present, this action is called “送钟”(sòng zhōng) in Chinese, which has the same pronunciation as “送终”. And it means you are looking forward to someone’s death! Sounds terrible, right?

  • Chrysanthemums or Candles

Why? Because in China chrysanthemums and candles are usually used to commemorate the dead.

  • Pears or Umbrellas

Why? Because pears in Chinese “” () is pronounced the same as the character “”, and umbrellas “” (sǎn) is pronounced similar to “” (sàn). Both of them, “” and “” refer to breaking up, or saying goodbye.

Here is another tip about gifts. When you give your gift to Chinese people, DO NOT ask them to unwrap your gift immediately. Since in China people often unwrap their gifts after the visitors leave.

4. What should I say when I first meet Chinese people?

Since it is your first time to meet this person, you can just politely say “你好” (nǐ hǎo). If the one is an elder, you can say “您好” (nín hǎo) instead.

You may give a self-introduction afterwards – “我叫XYZ,你可以叫我XX” (wǒ jiào XYZ,nǐ kě yǐ jiào wǒ XX). The translation is “my name is XYZ, and you can call me XX”.

And then you can follow with the words “很高兴认识你” (hěn gāo xìng rèn shí nǐ). The translation is “Nice to meet you”.

5. What commonly happens when you visit your Chinese friend?

Your Chinese friend would probably give you a cup of hot water. That is the way Chinese people treat their visitors. This is very common in China, especially for elders.

Don’ t be afraid. No need to drink the hot water immediately. You can just put it on the table and wait for it cool down. If you want cold water, you may just ask them politely – “我可以要一杯冷水吗?” (wǒ kě yǐ yào yī bēi lěng shuǐ ma?). When they give something to you, always remember to say thank you, that is, “谢谢” (xiè xiè).

6. What can I say when I meet my Chinese friend several times already?

If you guys have a long time not seeing each other, you can say “好久不见” (hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn), and followed by “最近怎么样啊?” (zuì jìn zěn me yang a, that is, How are you doing?).

If they ask you back, you can say “我最近挺好的” (wǒ zuì jìn tǐng hǎo de). This is the case if you want to show your positive life. Alternatively, maybe you don’t want to say anything about your current situation.

If you do feel upset recently, you can say “我最近心情不太好” (wǒ zuì jìn xīn qíng bú tài hǎo), and also it would be better if you can explain a little bit about your recent situation.

7. What if I make a phone call to a Chinese?

You need to say one word “” (wéi) at the very beginning of the conversation and tell who you are with using Tip 4 or 6 to start your conversation.

8. About “早上好” (zǎo shàng hǎo), “中午好” (zhōng wǔ hǎo) and “晚上好” (wǎn shàng hǎo)

The meanings of these three are good morning, good noon, and good evening, respectively. They are often used in formal emails, but not commonly used in face-to-face conversations.

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