Chinese Greetings

Chinese people greets each other in a park
Chinese people greets each other in a park
In China, a handshake or a simple and kind salutation is a common greeting form. Differently, many western countries accept hugs and kisses as a popular form although a handshake is still the formal way when greeting people.

Form of Address:

A form of address is to some extent a reflection of social climate. In China, various forms of address are used according to circumstances. Choosing the appropriate and correct form shows your wit and high respect to others. Generally, for Chinese people it should be in accord with convention and care much about the personal favor of the people being addressed. There are four main categories:

Job Title: You can call someone directly by his job title or put it before his surname or full name. This is often used in the workplace and on more formal occasions:

Chinese Pinyin Chinese The same meaning in English
Hu Zhu Xi 胡主席 President Hu
Zhang Jing Li 张经理 Manager Zhang
Liu Zhu Ren 刘主任 Director Liu

To address based on professional qualifications, which expresses respect to those being addressed:

Pinyin Chinese The same meaning in English
Li Jiao Shou 李教授 Professor Li
Wang Lu Shi 王律师 Lawyer Wang
Zhao Gong Cheng Shi 赵工程师 Engineer Zhao

An address based on educational qualifications is helpful to emphasize the academic authority of the people being addressed:

Pinyin Chinese The same meaning in English
Yang Bo Shi 杨博士 Dr. Yang
Gao Shuo Shi 高硕士 Master Gao
Ma Xue Shi 马学士 Bachelor Ma

To address based on professions:

Pinyin Chinese The same meaning in English
Wang Lao Shi 王老师 Teacher Wang
Zhang Yi Sheng 张医生 Docotor Zhang
Liu Jing Guan 刘警官 Officer Liu

Generally, you can call others by their family name or full name by putting the Mr. or Ms. in front. This is the general address most widely used in company, hotels, stores, restaurants, karaoke, bars and other places.

You can use a person's full name or family name when addressing acquaintances, good friends and colleagues, or only the surname proceeded by an informal title which indicates his age:

Pinyin Chinese Meaning in English Note
Lao Li 老李 Elder Li A person older than yourself
Xiao Wang 小王 Younger Wang A person younger than yourself

Phatic Communion

A smile, good eye contact and politeness are expressions of sincerity. These are the beginning of communication. Just like westerners, the Chinese usually pass the time of day with one another as a precursor to getting to the point of a conversation or presentation.

Different conditions require different styles in which conversational greetings may be exchanged. When you meet someone for the first time, the most commonly-used words are:

Chinese Pinyin Chinese The same meaning in English
Ni Hao 你好 Hello/Hi
Hen Gao Xing Ren Shi Ni 很高兴认识你 Glad to see you. / Nice to meet you.
Xing Hui (more formal ) 幸会 How do you do?

For greeting acquaintances, the words will be more informal and friendly like the following:

Pinyin Chinese Meaning in English
Hao Jiu Bu Jian 好久不见 Long time no see!
Ni Qi Se Bu Cuo 你气色不错 You look very well today!
Chi Le Ma 吃了吗 Have you had your meal?
Mang Shen Me Ne 忙什么呢? What are you busying doing these days?
Zui Jin Ru He 最近如何? How are you doing recently?
Shen Ti Zen Me Yang 身体怎么样? How are you feeling? / How are you?
Jia Ren Dou Hao Ba 家人都好吧? How is your family?
Qu Na'er 去那儿啊? Where are you going?
Shang Ban Qu Ma 上班去吗? You are going to work?
Jin Tian Feng Hen Da 今天风很大 The wind is so strong today.
Ni Nu Er Zhen Ke Ai 您女儿真可爱 Your daughter is so lovely!

This phatic communion is a salutation without expectation of a response, the question being rhetorical. However, it should be compact, friendly and respectful. It is improper to ask about the personal affairs of other people, for delving into another's privacy is considered to be discourteous. Remember always to be active, passionate, natural and attentive when greeting others.

 Further Reading : Chinese Names

- Last updated on Aug. 23, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on Chinese Greetings
Asked by Col Virendra Sahai Verma Retd from INDIA | Mar. 22, 2020 08:22Reply
Hand shake is western influence or their tradition. What gesture of hands is normal while greeting?
Answers (1)
Answered by Isable from CANADA | Mar. 23, 2020 22:10

You can shake hands and greet with each other. Or you just need to wave your hands.
Asked by Edwin Lim from SINGAPORE | Aug. 11, 2017 03:00Reply
How to address the person who is my father in-law's sister's son in Mandarin?
Answers (1)
Answered by Bill from USA | Aug. 13, 2017 22:56

You are of the same generation. In Chinese tradition, there's no specific address for him, so you could call him by his name if he's younger than you or call him Ge(哥, elder brother in English) if he's older than you.
Asked by Eva from SPAIN | Jul. 05, 2017 16:51Reply
What is the best way to speak to people during a tour?
I'm going to China on a tour and I am probably going to meet tour guides, people who work in the temples etc. How should I greet them?
Answers (1)
Answered by Helen from USA | Jul. 06, 2017 03:06

Hi, Eva. To your guide you may greet him/her in English as usual. To common Chinese people, you could say Hi, Hello or Nihao. To people working in the temples please greet them with Nihao. Shaking hands is the most popular greeting in China.
Asked by TedLowden from CANADA | Jan. 03, 2017 20:56Reply
First meeting.
I am meeting a Chinese lady for the first time through a dating site, this is in London Ontario Canada.
She has a daughter living in Shanghai China.
So I would like to make a greeting in Chinese, what should that be.
Do I make the jesster and bow.
Just trying to show some respect.
And tell her she is very attractive.
Please help me make a good impression.
I only speak English.
Answers (1)
Answered by Ali from GERMANY | Jan. 05, 2017 19:27

Actually, you needn't bow. Just shake hands with her, and greet her. Be polite and gentle. In this way, you can leave a pretty good impression. Good luck! :)
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