In the Chinese corporate world, there is a large focus on business etiquette. The intricacies of business etiquette involve handing over (and receiving) a business card with two hands, lowering a wine glass when you toast a superior, among others.If you aren’t fluent in Chinese, the language barrier may affect your communication. Messages may get misinterpreted, and end up widening the cultural gap between you and your colleagues. To avoid this, we’ve compiled a list of short phrases to guarantee your success in making a good impression!
(hěn gāo xìng rèn shì nǐ)
I’m so happy to meet you.
After saying “你好 (nǐ hǎo)”, this is a polite way to show how excited you are to meet them. It is often said while shaking hands. You can use this phrase to set up a business card exchange, and then an opportunity to invite them to dinner.
(Zěn me chēng hu nín)
How should I call you?
This is a very polite alternative to, “What’s your name?” If someone only offers their surname, you can call them “[surname]先生” or “[surname] 女士” for Mr. and Ms. respectively. You can read more about how to address someone formally in Chinese here.
Excuse me, may I ask…
The general word “please” is surprisingly absent from Chinese vocabulary. Instead, we use a variety of ways to express our politeness. One of the ways is with the word “请 (Qǐng).” Saying “请问” can help you interrupt someone politely, or ask for something.
(bù hǎo yì sī)
This is a very humble way to say “sorry” or “excuse me.” You can use this phrase in many different situations – from when you accidentally bump into someone, or even when asking them for a favor.
(nà jiù bài tuō nǐ le)
Then I’ll leave it to you.
This is a very humble way of saying “please” after making a request. “拜托 (BÀI TUŌ)” means to “request.” In colloquial Chinese, some people even use the phrase “拜托” to mean “beg.” (Imagine a child asking his parents for ice cream, saying “pleaaaaaase pleaaase.” This is applied in a similar way in casual conversation.) However, when you say “那就拜托你了,” in a business sense, it means that you are humbly requesting someone to complete a task.
(xīn kǔ nǐ le)
Thank you for your hard work.
This is one of those Chinese phrases that has no English equivalent. “辛苦你了 (xīn kǔ nǐ le)” is often translated as “you’ve worked hard,” or “thank you for your hard work.” However, it can also mean “I’m sorry for making you work so hard.”
(nǐ tài kè qì le)
You’re too kind.
The typical way to say “You’re welcome,” is 不客气 (bù kè qì). This is an even more extravagant way of saying that. You can also use this in place of “thank you.” For example, if someone takes you to a nice dinner and insists on paying the tab, you can say “你太客气了!” or “You’re far too kind!” Similarly, if someone keeps thanking you for something, you can also say “你太客气了!”
That concludes the list! If you ever struggle with speaking Chinese to your colleagues, you can always try the phrase”我不会说中文 (wǒ bù huì shuō zhōng wén),” or “I don’t speak Chinese.” The fact that you are making an attempt to speak their language will already make you seem more polite and mannered in the eyes of your coworkers! Good luck!