Greetings in Chinese - Using the Correct Terms at the Correct Time

Greetings in Chinese - Using the Correct Terms at the Correct Time

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大家好!又在这里见面了。历史上罕见的暴风雪正在席卷美国东北部。注意安全和保暖噢! (dà jiā hǎo !yòu zài zhè lǐ jiàn miàn le 。lì shǐ shàng hǎn jiàn de bào fēng xuě zhèng zài xí juàn měi guó dōng běi bù 。zhù yì ān quán hé bǎo nuǎn ō !) How are you, everybody. Today we talk about how to greet in Chinese on different occasions. The above is a good example when you meet a group of people who you don't know personally or very well.

Let me explain.

大家好。Hello/hi everybody. This is a common greeting to a group of people instead of one person.

大家 means all and everyone. literally means “good”; but in this saying, it simply means “hello” or hi”. You can also say 你们好 /nǐ men hǎo/ which means “hello, you all”. But 大家好 sounds more informal and friendly.

If you are meeting one person, someone you see the first time or you are not very acquainted with, you can say : 你好/nǐ hǎo/. 又在这里见面了。(I am glad that) we meet here again. , again. 在这里, here. 见面 meet. , the modal particle. It is not that we really see each other; but each time when I write an article, I feel like I am talking to you face to face.

If you actually meet someone the first time, you can say 很高兴认识你/hěn gāo xìng rèn shí nǐ/ or 幸会/xìng huì/, both of which mean “nice to meet you”, but 幸会 is more formal. While you greet someone, your body language should also show your respect, politeness and sincerity. Smile, good eye contact and a warm handshake is a good complement to greeting someone.

历史上罕见的暴风雪正在席卷美国东北部。A historic snowstorm is sweeping the northeast of the U.S. I am using weather as a topic of small talk to find a common interest with readers. Weather is always a good topic to start a conversation—this seems true everywhere, not just in the U.S. 

注意安全和保暖噢!Stay safe and warm! It is never a bad idea to show you care about others on the premises that you are genuine and not crossing the line or intruding into anyone’s privacy. With close friends and acquaintances, words can be more informal and friendly like the following:

好久不见/hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn/:Long time no see!

你气色不错/nǐ qì sè bú cuò/: You look very well today!

吃了吗 /chī le ma/: Have you eaten yet?

最近忙什么呢?/zuì jìn máng shén me ne/ What are you busy doing these days?

最近怎么样?/zuì jìn zěn me yàng/ How are you doing recently?

身体怎么样?/shēn tǐ zěn me yàng/ How are you feeling? / How are you?

家人都好吧?/jiā rén dōu hǎo ba/ How is your family?

去那儿啊?/qù nǎ ér ā/ Where are you going?

上班去吗?/shàng bān qù ma/  You are going to work?

你女儿真可爱 /nǐ nǚ ér zhēn kě ài/ Your daughter is so lovely!

These expressions are compact, friendly and respectful; they can be rhetorical questions without expecting an answer. These greetings can be asked quickly when you bump into people on the way to work or in the hallway, and when combined with a simple nod or a slight bow they can help maintain a friendship or a relationship. The way you address them can be informal too. You can use the person's full name or family name, proceeded by an informal title which indicates his age: 老王/lǎo wáng/(elder Wang) or 小李/ xiǎo lǐ/ (younger Li).

Above we mainly talked about how to greet friends or strangers who are of similar age and rank as you. If you are meeting seniors or superiors, the manner in which you address and the greetings should be more formal to show more respect and courtesy. You can address them by their job titles, professional qualifications/professions, or academic authority.

By Job Title: You put their job title before their surname or full name. For example: 习主席 President Xi; 赵胜经理 Manager Zhao Sheng; or 王总监 Director Wang.

By professional qualifications/professions, you can use: 高教授: Professor Gao; 肖医生: Dr. Xiao; 张会计师: CPA Zhang; 王老师: Teacher Wang; or 刘警官: Officer Liu.

By academic authority, you can use: 杨博士: Dr. Yang.

The greetings you use for superiors or elders should be more respectful too. You say 您好/ nín hǎo/ instead of 你好 and you should also be prepared to be more responsive rather than leading the conversation, because these people are your superiors. I know it might be a difficult concept in the U.S., where merit and success have a bigger say, but if you learn to respect age and superiority in China, it can help you go a long way. Remember: in China, business life and personal life aren’t necessarily separated from each other. A good relationship with your boss can help your bottom line.

Last but not least, greeting women.  A normal compliment can be okay, such as: “你今天的裙子真漂亮(your dress today is gorgeous)” or “昨天你的演讲太精彩了(your presentation yesterday was great!)”. But avoid too personal a compliment, such as: “你真漂亮(you are very pretty)”. This can cross the boundary. A handshake nowadays is fine and common, but no kissing on the cheek or hugging unless you know it is acceptable to this very person.

Chinese people highly value courtesy and etiquette and demand a lot of respect in business occasions and in daily life. They may not tell you when they are offended, but their attitude may reflect in your future relationship or maybe worse, in your business affairs with them. I understand if you feel overwhelmed by all the subtle explicit and implicit rules and practices. But all in all, mutual understanding, respect, and sincerity is the key to any relationship. The Chinese are no exception.

Okay, I hope you learned something more about us Chinese today. I am looking forward to sharing another interesting topic with you next time. 保重!下次再见!


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