Say Hello in Chinese

The Chinese culture is one of dedication, honor, and respect. One way the Chinese show respect to each other is through greeting one another. The Chinese greeting is much more important to the local people than greetings are to people in the United States and other English speaking cultures. When visiting a Chinese-speaking country, you’ll most likely find that the words you use most are the greetings. As such it is important to know how to say hello and greet people you know or would like to know.

Back to the Beginning

 The most commonly used Chinese greeting is quite simple to say but may be a little difficult to read: nĭ hăo. This greeting is pronounced “knee how” and means “hi” or “hello.” When broken down, the parts of this greeting literally mean “you good?” “Nĭ” is the Chinese word for “you” and “hăo” is the equivalent for the English word “good.”

There are a number of other greetings that would be beneficial to know, as well. There are actually three different ways to say good morning: zăoshàng hăo, nĭ zăo, and zăo. These three versions are not very different from each other, but they range in formality from most formal to least. “Zăoshàng” (pronounced “zow-shung/shong”) as well as just “zăo” both mean morning. “Hăo” once again means good and “nĭ” is you. Translated into English, the ranges in formality do make sense. “Good morning” is the most formal, “morning you” (not something we would typically say) seems less formal, and just “morning” is the least formal. “Xiàwŭ hăo” (pronounced “zshow-woo how”) is “good afternoon,” and wănshàng hăo (pronounced “wawn-shung/shong how”) means “good evening.” See the video below for an example of how to say hello in Chinese.


The Importance of a Greeting

As previously mentioned, the importance of a greeting is a lot greater in China than it is here in the United States. Large amounts of respect are given to the elderly especially. When greeting someone, a handshake is common just like you are probably used to. There is a major difference, however; instead of a brief, firm handshake, a long, less firm handshake is usually given and can last up to ten seconds. Although not seen as often, a small bow at the shoulders (typically not the waist as is seen in Japan) or a nod may be given instead of a handshake. If you’re not sure which nonverbal gesture a Chinese person prefers, wait for him or her to make the first move.