Thursday, 12 January 2012

Don't greet a Chinese with 'How are you? nihaoma? 你好吗?'

Listen, you sound just like a foreigner when you say 'Nihaoma? 你好吗?'. Teachers like me feel obliged to answer: 'Wo hen hao, xiexie, ni ne? 我很好,谢谢,你呢?' - This conventional response sounds like those we learnt in any European language class including English - 'How are you' - 'I am fine, thanks. And you?'.
The common informal greetings can consist of two parts:

PART 1 - interjection of greeting
  1. 嘿 hēi - hey
  2. 嗨 hāi - hi
  3. 喂wèi - hey; commonly used in telephone with an rising tone wéi
  4. 诶 ēi - hey (when you bump into a friend; or when you're calling a friend who doesn't see you passing-by)
  5. the above + optional 你好 or/and addressing the name

PART 2 - greeting question
1. Have you eaten?
(nǐ) chīfan le ma? (你)吃饭了吗?
(nǐ) chīle ma? (你)吃了吗?
(nǐ) chīguò le ma? (你)吃过了吗?
optional nǐ

2. What's up?
zuìjìn zěnme yàng? 最近怎么样? 'How are things lately?'
zěnme la? 怎么啦? 'What's up?'

3. Busy?
zuìjìn (gōngzuò) máng ma? 最近(工作)忙吗? 'Busy (at work) lately?'
zuìjìn máng shénme? 最近忙什么? 'What are you busy with lately?'

4. Other more specified questions
qù nálǐ? 去哪里? 'Where you going?'
huíjiā a? 回家啊? 'Going home?'

These expressions are for people you already know. Please don't ask a new acquaintance if he has eaten :)

More on greetings:

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