China is a beautiful and diverse country, rich in cultural history. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I spent two and a half years teaching and travelling through China. This was one of those life-changing experiences and I’ve captured so many memories here. Living in a new country has all kinds of benefits – from making international friends to learning to speak a new language. Being immersed in the culture makes it easier to pick up on common phrases used by locals and you’ll have so many more opportunities to interact with people. That’s why knowing a few essential phrases before travelling to China can help break the ice.
Picking up words in Mandarin is relatively easy as they are short and simple to remember, but here’s the trick… you have to use the right tone! Mandarin is a very tonal language. There are four different tones you could possibly use and with each one, the meaning of the word changes. Keep this at the back of your mind as you navigate today’s post where I look at some essential phrases you should know before travelling to China.
Hello – 你好 (nǐ hǎo)
This is the most basic and commonly used greeting in China. It’s a polite and friendly way to introduce yourself and acknowledge others.
Thank you – 谢谢 (xiè xiè)
Saying thank you in Chinese can go a long way. This phrase is simple and easy to remember, and it will help you show appreciation to those who assist you.
Goodbye – 再见 (zài jiàn)
When it’s time to say farewell, use this phrase to let the other person know that you’re leaving. It’s polite and respectful, and it shows that you acknowledge their presence.
Sorry – 对不起 (duì bù qǐ)
If you make a mistake or accidentally offend someone, saying sorry in Chinese can help ease the tension. It’s a way to show that you acknowledge your error and want to make things right.
Yes/No – 是/不是 (shì/bù shì)
These two words are essential for communication in any language. Yes and no are straightforward responses that can help you answer questions and express your opinions.
How much is it? – 多少钱？ (duō shǎo qián?)
When shopping or eating out, you’ll need to know how much things cost. This question can help you get a better understanding of the price before making a purchase.
I don’t understand – 我不明白 (wǒ bù míng bái)
If you’re struggling to understand someone or something this phrase can help you communicate your confusion and encourage the other person to clarify.
Where is…? – …在哪里？ (…zài nǎ lǐ?)
When exploring a new city or area, you’ll likely need to ask for directions. This question can help you find your way to your desired location.
Do you speak English? – 你会说英语吗? (nǐ huì shuō yīng yǔ ma?)
If you’re struggling to communicate in Chinese, asking if someone speaks English can help you find a common language to use. Many people in China do speak English, especially in larger cities and tourist areas.
Cheers! – 干杯！ (gān bēi!)
When sharing a drink with friends or colleagues, use this phrase to say cheers and celebrate together. It’s a common tradition in Chinese culture, and it’s a great way to bond with others.