Greetings in China
While in this lesson you have learnt a standard greeting dialogue, actually in China you are very unlikely to hear the phrase “你好吗?” (“how are you?”) in everyday conversation. Instead, Chinese people are more likely to greet each other by asking “have you eaten yet?” or “have you been busy recently?” – these show a greater care and interest in your friend’s wellbeing.
However you are not expected to respond to such questions perfectly honestly! Just as in English you shouldn’t reply to “how are you?” with a lengthly description of your health issues (!), in Chinese there are expected responses to reassure your friend that you are well, without burdening them. Let’s check out some examples…
Dialogue 1: Have you eaten yet?
Tom, long time no see!
Have you eaten yet?
I've eaten! How about you?
I've also eaten!
Food is an incredibly important part of Chinese culture, so this is in fact one of the most common greetings – particularly between good friends.
As you can see from this dialogue, each person responds by saying that they have indeed eaten, so they can now continue with the actual conversation. Note that according to Chinese culture, if you say that you have not yet eaten, your friend may feel obliged to invite you for a meal.
However, if you are meeting up with a friend for lunch, saying you’ve already eaten would itself be quite awkward! Let’s see what else you could ask…
Dialogue 2: Are you busy?
Katie, are you busy?
Not too busy! What's up?