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10 Chinese Phrases You Must Know to Live in China

Aug.17, 2020

I hope you're going to launch your new year resolution very soon!


However before everything starts, before your daily class yields any significant result, I hope these 10 phrases will help you get through this "transition" smoothly.


What I'm sharing with you here is not totally for the elementary level. For the non-beginner of Chinese learners, I hope it will also help you understand better about living in current Chinese society with these catchy phrases explained here.


Okay! Let's get started!


1. 你好,我要…… / 我不要……谢谢!

Nǐhǎo, wǒ yào…… / Wǒ bú yào……xièxie!

Hi, I would like to have…… / I don't want……, thank you!


Since moving to China, have you felt the overwhelming food culture here? If not, maybe you haven't been adventurous enough? Take your time to explore more!


Living in China, I think the first thing you should get used to, is eating out daily. When you're in the restaurant (or actually in a hotel, KTV, massage place…), you can't avoid asking for help from the staff.


Use "你好, 我要……" to make a request to the "měinǚ (pretty girl-waitress) / shuàigē (handsome boy-waiter)" when you point at the item on the menu or drink list by saying "zhè ge (jiǔ-drink / cài-dish)" or when you need something else like in the picture below:


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At the same time, maybe not everything offered up from Chinese dishes is pleasant for you. So, no matter if it's because of personal taste or allergy, you can simply use "我不要……,谢谢" to clarify to the restaurant what you don't want. I've listed some typical items that you might not need.


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If there's something in particular that you don't want in your food, please look it up in the dictionary, ask your Chinese friend to make sure your pronunciation is right or simply put it down on your phone, and show it to the waitress/waiter using above phrases.


I personally believe that the most enjoyable factor of living in Shanghai/China is the abundance of experience with food. So, seize your stay here, seize these phrases and words above to explore Shanghai as a foodie!!


2. 我听不懂/我不知道。  

Wǒ tīng bu dǒng/ Wǒ bù zhīdào。

I don't understand/I don't know.


If you just had a long day and came across a random Chinese conversation with a bunch of "inconsiderate" native speakers speaking at a considerably fast speed, then say this phrase to them and I won't blame you for your lack of effort this time!


But this is the only situation in which I can accept your laziness with using "tingbudong". Once you start your Chinese class, please make more efforts in every conversation! As I know sometimes it is not easy, you can use two phrases below to help you out.


3. 请说得慢一点!

Qǐng shuō de màn yi diǎn!

Please speak a little slower!


4. 我的中文/汉语不太好。

Wǒ de Zhōngwén/Hànyǔ bú tài hǎo。

My Chinese is not very good.


I can feel the awkwardness when Chinese people shouting "ting bu dong" to "insult" your brave attempt. But then realize that it's not been very long since Chinese people have been exposed to more chances to listen to Chinese with different accents from other languages.


So please be patient with the native Chinese speakers' listening! I believe every Chinese speaker will slow down their speed to help you communicate more confidently once they hear you say this!


As over the past few years China has stepped into the cashless era, this actually has made the shopping part easier than before. There are more and more self-service stores appearing in the city. You don't need to talk when you are shopping, but just take out your phone and scan(扫一扫sǎo yi sǎo)!


5. 微信还是支付宝?你扫我还是我扫你?

Wēixìn háishì Zhīfùbǎo?Nǐ sǎo wǒ háishì wǒ sǎo nǐ?

Wechat or Alipay?You scan mine or I scan yours?


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But, shopping and bargaining is still a fun part of traveling in China! Anyway, remember them and you never know when you will use them in a random market.


6. 这个多少钱?

Zhège duōshǎo qián?

How much is this?


7. 太贵了!xxx块怎么样?

Tài guì le!xxx kuài zěnmeyàng?

It's too expensive!How about xxx kuài?


Additionally, with the Chinese online marketplace introducing its 7-Day No Reason Return policy, it has meant shopping on Taobao has finally become more reliable and therefore more indispensable in our life. Talking with the "kuaidi" should be easy because you only need to tell them where to put the parcel when you're not home. So practice this


8. 我不在家,放在门口/前台

Wǒ bú zài jiā, fàng zài ménkǒu/qiántái。

I'm not home. Put it at the door / at the reception.


The other important part of life is socializing! How to start your conversation with your Chinese friends? "Nihao"?


I'm afraid Chinese people rarely use "你好 Nǐhǎo/ Hello" & "你好吗? Nǐ hǎo ma/ How are you?" in their daily life to greet friends. Say "Hi" in this way:


9. 最近怎么样?

Zuìjìn zěnmeyàng?

How are you doing lately?


If you want to ask friends out, don't say "go grab a drink". You can't convince Chinese people there's socializing going on without food. So, invite them for food!


10. 你什么时候有空?一起吃个饭?

Nǐ shénme shíhou yǒukòng?Yìqǐ chī ge fàn?

When do you have time? Lunch or Dinner together?


You got it?

That's all for today! Remember how to use these 10 phrases to kick off your Chinese learning journey and you definitely will enjoy China more once you build up your connection with the locals!

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