Different ways to say hi and goodbye in China and the West

China Plus Published: 2017-10-10 17:16:40
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Speakers: Li Ningjing and Sam Duckett

[Photo: thinkstockphotos.com]

Two people are shaking hands. [Photo: thinkstockphotos.com]

A Swiss national commenter Katrin Büchenbacher wrote about the differences in etiquettes in welcomes and farewells between her Chinese boyfriend’s family and people in her home country.

She wrote: "I grabbed my bag, checked my hair in the mirror, got my keys and was already half out the door. 'Bye!' I shouted into the room where my boyfriend's mom and dad were sitting in front of the television, snacking on sunflower seeds.

"Walk slowly," they answered, only to add, "Come home early!" She stopped right there to look at them in confusion. She questioned "They are worried about me walking too fast and coming home too late? What a weird way to say goodbye".

She also noticed that when her boyfriend's mom comes home from work, her husband will nod at her and say, "You've come back," describing the status quo. "I've come back," is her answer to that.

She says she feels like in China, people don't need to ritualize these moments of arrival and departure that much. People just come and go without paying special attention to it.

She wrote: in Switzerland, saying hello and goodbye is a huge thing, and it can be pretty complicated at first.

There is a whole social construction about what gesture and facial expression accompany your words of greeting. In the least, you could smile and say, "Hello, Cindy." But then, should you shake hands? Hug? Does she want kisses on the cheek and if yes, how many? Which cheek shall I start with?

Farewells are of equal significance. Skipping it is a big deal called the "French exit," not to be mixed up with the French kiss, which is something you'd use in a greeting situation either.

The audio clip is from Studio+, produced by CRI. 

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