Beginner Chinese culture Expressions Intermediate Vocabulary

Useful and Essential Chinese Expressions That Will Help You Fit in in China

As a human well-integrated into society, you just can’t avoid taking part in those happy events that rhythm your life, such as a birthday party, a celebratory meal or simply an after-work drink to unwind with your colleagues or friends after a long week of work. What do you say in these situations to express your blessings and good wishes, like a native Chinese would? Lean in, we’re going to tell you the key Chinese expressions to know for smooth social interactions in Mandarin Chinese.

In Chinese culture, it’s important to know that relationships are based on trust, honor and friendship, or 关系 (guān xì). As such, heartfelt interactions between people are essential, no matter what type of relationship you’re building. Knowing the proper expressions to say in each occasion, from greetings to blessings, is therefore the first step to fitting in in Chinese society.

#1 Chinese expressions to use when eating and drinking

Eating is an important topic for the Chinese and don’t we say a full stomach is the way to a man’s love “. As you may very well know, Chinese speakers often greet each other to the tunes of [zh zh=”你吃饭了没有?” py=”Nǐ chīfànle méiyǒu?” en=”Have you eating yet?”] as no serious – or unserious – business can be carried out on an empty stomach. Therefore, it is quite natural that our first order of business is sentences to say before, during and after a meal.

How to say Enjoy your meal (bon appétit!) in Chinese

Picture yourself having a meal with Chinese-speaking friends or relatives, or friends’ relatives. In addition to minding your table manners as your parents taught you and as the Chinese expect you to, how do you wish your meal partakers a enjoyable meal? There are 3 ways to express “Enjoy your meal!” before you start eating

[zh zh=”吃好喝好!”]
[zh py=”Chī hǎo hē hǎo!”]
[zh en=”Enjoy your meal! / (Bon appétit!)”]

Literally, this sentence means eat well and drink well.  No wonder then, that it is used to say “Bon appétit” in Chinese. Just keep in mind this is a quite casual sentence to be used in your daily life only.

For more formal events, this sentence is your best choice:

[zh zh=”请慢用”]
[zh py=”Qǐng màn yòng”]
[zh en=”Eat slowly”]

Eating slowly, or in general, acting slowly, is something you’ll often hear Chinese speakers recommend you to do.

Why do Chinese people like to say “eat slowly”? Maybe it’s because eating slowly is good for digestion? Or because scientists have shown that fast-eating increases obesity risks and makes food less tasty?  Chinese people used to say:

”The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.”

And indeed when food was scarce, you had better savor every bite slowly because you knew you didn’t have enough to fill your stomach. In any case, 请慢用 is now used as a way to be nice, to encourage everyone to take their time in a fast-paced society where family meals shared together are becoming rarer and rarer.

You may notice here the use of [zh zh=”请” py=”Qǐng” en=””], that indicates this phrase is somewhat formal and best used with the elders or people you don’t know well.

[zh zh=”慢慢吃”]
[zh py=”Màn màn chī”]
[zh en=”Take your time and enjoy your meal”]

This sentence also means “eat slowly” and is just the informal way of saying 请慢用 ~ No further explanation needed for this one. Use it when you want to tell the others to take their time and enjoy their meal!

What else do you need to know when eating? How to make and respond to a toast, of course! The Chinese are well known for their love of toast-making and drinking to the healths of others, both via group toasts and individual ones. Newlyweds, for instance, are expected to go clink glasses individually with every guest of honor at their wedding. This is no easy task as you’ll soon understand, by reading below.

How do you say Cheers in Chinese?

First, how to say Cheers in Chinese? It’s easy: 干杯 gānbēi!

    [zh zh=”干杯!” py=”Gānbēi!” en=”Cheers! / Bottoms-up!”]

Just make sure you accompany your words with action: 干杯 gānbēi literally means dry glass so you really are expected to drink the whole thing. The Chinese say 干杯 and really drink it up, no matter what their drink is, whether it’s a Coke or a strong alcohol, in order to show their passion. Ready to do the same?

One more thing to know: 干杯 has to be taken seriously!

In China, hierarchy matters. So, to show your respect to the one who wants to 干杯 with you, if they are older or higher-ranked than you, you must clink your glass lower than theirs; as this video shows:

China 3_Lower your glass as a sign of respect. from 43 Films on Vimeo.

Then you can drink. Of course, your glass must be empty when you set it back down on the table. Thankfully, glasses are usually small! Being a good drinker or having coping strategies still helps with proper toasting in China.

 #2 How to give your blessings and wish good wishes in Chinese

Once you’ve extended your in eating and when drinking, showing your good wishes for people and celebrating their happy life events is up.

How to congratulate someone in Chinese

[zh zh=”恭喜发财”]
[zh py=”Gōngxǐfācái”]
[zh en=”May you be prosperous!”]

This phrase is a very Chinese way to send someone your congratulations and well-wishing. You can say that to someone at the table after saying 干杯 or use it during the new year or in other situations where congratulating people is in order.

How to say “Bless you” in Chinese to wish happiness

[zh zh=”祝福你”]
[zh py=”Zhùfúnǐ”]
[zh en=”Bless you!”]

To bless someone, you can also say: 祝福你!Literally, this means “wish happiness onto you,” This one can be used for a number of occasions.

However, unlike in English speaking countries, this way of saying “Bless you”  祝福你!is not to be used when someone sneezes.

How to say “Bless you” in Chinese when someone sneezes

In China, here’s what you say when you want to bless someone who sneezes:

[zh zh=”老天爷保佑你!”]
[zh py=”Lǎotiānyé bǎoyòu nǐ”]
[zh en=”Bless you!”]

老天爷 means Heavens, and literally is the Venerable GrandPa from the Sky. In Chinese, , the sky, the heaven, is a key concept used a lot more than the name of God. However, you can also say 上帝 / 神 保佑 你Shàng dì / shén bǎoyòu nǐ to say God bless You!

A powerful way to say “good wishes” to someone in Mandarin

[zh zh=”心想事成” py=”Xīn xiǎng shì chéng” en=”May all your wishes come true!”]

If the blessings and good wishes you’ve learned so far here don’t seem powerful enough, try this one! 心想事成!May all your wishes come true! Whether it is during a family reunion, a meal with your friends or during all kinds of festivals, saying this phrase works well at all times!

Great, you now know basic ways to extend to all your good wishes. The sentences coming up next are simple, everyday greetings and blessings you’d be sorry not to know and will help you fit right in China.

#3 Everyday life Chinese expressions and blessings

How to say good luck in Chinese

[zh zh=”祝你好运”]
[zh py=”Zhù nǐ hǎo yùn”]
[zh en=”Good luck!”]

How do you wish someone good luck in Chinese? Simple. To say good luck in Chinese, say: 祝你好运!It’s easy, take the [zh zh=”祝” py=”zhù” en=”wish”] we saw before, add who you’re wishing good luck to and complete your sentence with [zh zh=”好运” py=”hǎoyùn” en=”good luck”]. If someone is going to attend an exam, you can say add a [zh zh=”加油” py=”jiāyóu” en=”fighting”] for extra good measure.

How to say happy birthday in Chinese

[zh zh=”生日快乐!”]
[zh py=”Shēng rì kuài lè”]
[zh en=”Happy birthday!”]

A classic in every language, knowing how to wish your friends a happy birthday in Chinese is a must.
It’s simple enough, as long as you keep in mind the Chinese say “birthday happy” – 生日快乐 shēng rì kuài lè!Happy birthday! If you are going to a birthday party with your Chinese friends, you’ll be glad to know how to wish the birthday girl or boy a happy birthday. If you’re feeling brave, you can even sing along with them the happy birthday song! You’ll see: it’s the same birthday tune you know; and the lyrics are also the same, just in Chinese. Easy peasy.

快乐 happy is a great word to know because you can use it to wish someone virtually any happy event or festival. Just replace birthday by the name of the event and tack on 快乐。For instance:

[zh zh=”新年快乐”]
[zh py=”Xīn nián kuài lè”]
[zh en=”Happy new year!”]

Or [zh zh=”圣帕特里克节快乐!” py=”shèng pàtèlǐkè jié kuàilè!” en=”Happy Saint Patrick’s Day”] as it’s nearly St. Patrick’s day, at the time we write this post.

How do the Chinese wish each other a great weekend?

[zh zh=”周末愉快”]
[zh py=”Zhōu mò yú kuài”]
[zh en=”Enjoy your weekend!”]

Another great expression to know that works well with colleagues, classmates and friends alike is to wish everyone a great weekend! 周末愉快 is a great way to do so and tell your friends to enjoy their weekend.

[zh zh=”愉快” py=”yúkuài” en=”happy; delightful”] is a synonym for 快乐 so you can often interchange both.

How to wish someone a good trip in Mandarin Chinese

[zh zh=”旅途愉快”]
[zh py=”Lǚ tú yú kuài”]
[zh en=”Wish you a good trip!”]

What do you want to wish someone you know going on a journey? A good trip and a safe journey, of course! Your new friend 愉快 comes in handy to do so in Chinese.

旅途lǘtú is journey and 愉快 you already know. Another easy sentence to remember, right?

[zh zh=”一路平安”]
[zh py=”Yīlù píng’ān”]
[zh en=”Have a safe journey / Bon voyage!”]

一路平安 is another popular sentence said by Chinese speakers when someone they know goes on a trip.  平安 is safe and sound, and 一路 is the whole journey. Simple enough!

How to say goodbye in Chinese when you’re taking leave of someone

[zh zh=”慢走”]
[zh py=”Mànzǒu”]
[zh en=”Goodbye and take care!”]

When you had a nice time with your friends or relatives, but it’s time to take your leave, knowing a good way to say goodbye is a must.

Instead of saying the very common [zh zh=”再见” py=”zàijiàn” en=”goodbye”] or [zh zh=”拜拜” py=”báibái” en=”bye-bye”], the Chinese like to say: 慢走

慢走 literally means walk slowly, and it’s used in a similar manner to [zh zh=”慢用” py=”mànyòng” en=”eat slowly”] . This is something a Chinese host will often say to their guests. It’s a way to show politeness as someone takes their leave.

Final Words

These Chinese expressions may seem like a lot to soak up all at once, but, little by little, you’ll get the hang of them. Just practice using them every chance you get! For example, why not give your friends a big surprise next time you see them by trying some of these out on them?

You’ll see that as you learn to use these sentences, your social interactions in Chinese will be smoother and will help you fit in Chinese society. You’ll sound a little more native when speaking Mandarin Chinese and perhaps this collection of Chinese sentences will help you build lasting relationships along the way!

Did we forget any special occasions you’d like to know the sentence for? Have you used these Chinese expressions before to surprise your friends? Share your stories in the comments!

The Nincha Team

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