May 272009

I was delighted when a  friend sent me a link to a description of some Chinese ritual greetings today: Conversational protocols: a Cross Cultural Perspective.


Apparently something like ‘Are you busy?’ is a pretty common greeting in Chinese. Wow! That could cause a bit of confusion. I loved an example they give:

A. Lao Zhang, jin tian ni mang ma? ( Old Zhang, are you busy today?)

B. hen mang/ bu tai mang. (Very busy/Not very busy.)

In BrE and AmE ‘Are you busy?’ is often an indirect request for help and attention. So I’d have thought a  more logical  response would be something like:

B.  Less of the ‘old’  – What do you want?

Click here for more on an AmE greeting and here for more on indirect requests

 Posted by at 11:44 pm

  5 Responses to “Chinese greetings”

  1. In Thailand they often ask “Where are you going?” to which the standard answer (which I took a long time to learn after months of trying to explain where I was really going) is something like “I am going to take part in a leisure activity” (but much shorter than that)

    I had similar problems with a Canadian flatmate in London
    “Nothing, I’m fine. Why, do I look tired?”

  2. Ha! Love that wassup response.
    It’s funny you should mention this because the guy who’s replacing some tiles for us greeted us with ‘wassup’ just today when we walked out onto the deck. The answer that sprang to mind was ‘You’, because the guy was standing on our roof at the time.
    Lovely to see you here Alex and thank you so much for contributing – or as I think they might say in Philly ‘merican – Yo! Thanks bro!

  3. Hi Vicki,

    Great to see that your site works in China! It came up 7th on Google when I searched for “greetings in Chinese”.

  4. Oh that’s great to hear Andi! You’re in China? How exciting! What are you doing there and how’s it going?

  5. I’m teaching teachers on a joint Pilgrims Trinity course. About to run off and meet them now. The Conversational Protocols link in the first post is fantastic. Thanks so much for that!

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