A language barrier can be most frustrating when you’re trying to cross it for love.
Or even just for a crush.
Or for that cutie at the other end of the bar.
Flirting is Chinese can be pretty scary—it’s already difficult enough in your own language. Now you’re trying to woo someone from a completely different culture through words and phrases you might not be totally comfortable with yet. Where do you even start?
We’ve got tons of vocabulary and phrases that’ll help you impress native speakers who’ve captured your eye. Plus, we’ll give you some cultural context, since flirting in Chinese is about so much more than just knowing the right words.
Ready to get your flirt on?
Love Beyond Language Barriers: How to Flirt in Chinese
What’s the Point of Flirting in Chinese If I’m Not a Native Speaker?
Why should anybody bother learning how to flirt in Chinese if they aren’t already fluent? Is it even worth trying?
Well, there are many reasons why discovering how to flirt in Mandarin Chinese is useful for language learners:
- Love (or lust) between two people isn’t strictly reserved for speakers of the same language. If you’ve built friendships with someone who speaks a different language than you, or a language you’re far from fluent in, why can’t you build a romantic relationship with someone in the same way?
- Communication is so much more than just spoken language, but it helps. Language is important, but human communication is much more than just words. Just by knowing simple phrases and having an understanding of cultural differences, you can definitely form an intimate bond with someone in Mandarin Chinese.
- It’s easy for some things to get lost in translation—so learning precisely what to say and expect is key. You don’t want to accidentally use the wrong word or tone when it comes to communicating romantic or intimate concepts in the same way you wouldn’t want to slip up and say something silly in your own language while flirting.
- You’ll know when a Chinese person is flirting with you instead of being totally oblivious. Again, cultural differences can be pretty big between Westerners and Chinese people. Understanding the signs of a flirtatious or interested person can help you understand if a Mandarin-speaking person has a crush on you.
Cultural Context When It Comes to Flirting in Chinese
- If you’re asking out a girl or flirting with a girl, take the immediate turn-down with a grain of salt. It’s a cultural practice to reject immediately that’s still used pretty often in China today.
However, don’t be incredibly pushy and continuously ask after she’s said “no” several times. A creep in the West is a creep in China. Chinese girls who are very much not interested will try to be polite and make an excuse to get the hell away from you.
Be respectful and say something like 好吧。没什么。(Hǎo ba. Méi shén me.) — It’s okay. No big deal.
- If you’re flirting with a guy or trying to ask a guy out, don’t be hurt if he isn’t incredibly responsive at first. Chinese men have a tendency to be quite shy and are notorious for being stuck in their shells.
Try some small talk before flirting. Ask “in-depth” questions that require more than a couple of words for an answer. In that same vein, understand that Chinese men tend to be very straightforward with their feelings, something that can be really cool, but might be off-putting if you’re not used to that sort of thing.
- What about our gay, lesbian and transgender friends who want to flirt in China? China is, unfortunately, one of the most unwelcoming nations for LGBT people. It’s important to be safe if you’re not fluent in Mandarin Chinese and wish to flirt with someone you like. Luckily, gay bars and clubs in major cities in Taiwan and China do exist where you can meet other LGBT people. It just takes a little investigating.
Mandarin Chinese Flirting Phrases
你想约会吗? (Nǐ xiǎng yuē huì ma?) — Would you like to go out?
Be completely and totally honest with Chinese women about your intentions and don’t beat around the bush. Be blunt about wanting to go out, but don’t be aggressive about it.
甜言蜜语 (Tián yán mì yǔ) — sweet speech honey language
Also known as Chinese “sweet couple talk,” this is essentially like the Western version of flirtatiously talking.
In some places, sweet couple talk is different only in its use of more formal terms. Think “我对你感兴趣 (wǒ duì nǐ gǎn xìng qu) — I’m fond of you” instead of the typical Western “I like you.”
Sweet couple talk also includes all the obligatory cute pet names and phrases as well:
宝贝 (bǎo bèi) — Baby/Babe
亲爱的 (qīn ài de) — Dear/Darling
漂亮 (piào liang) — Pretty. This can be used as a noun or as an adjective: 你好漂亮! (nǐ hǎo piào liang!) — You are so pretty!
美丽 (měi lì) — Beautiful
帅 (shuài) — Handsome
女朋友 (nǚ péng yǒu) — Girlfriend/Significant other (female)
男朋友 (nán péng yǒu) — Boyfriend/Significant other (male)
我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) — I love you
Ah, the most basic yet powerful phrase ever. Of course, you shouldn’t throw this around willy-nilly, and if the situation calls for it, you could even express your love with a bit more poetry other than the basic “I love you.” There are other terms you can use for different situations as well:
愛老虎你 (ai lǎo hǔ nǐ) — I love you. This is a more humorous and “teasing” way of saying I love you.
我喜欢你 (wǒ xǐ huān nǐ) — I like you.
我想跟你在一起 (wǒ xiǎng gēn nǐ zài yī qǐ ) — I want to be with you/I want us to be together.
我暗恋你 (wǒ àn liàn nǐ) — I’m crushing on you.
我好想你 (wǒ hǎo xiǎng nǐ) — I miss you.
我想带你出去吃饭 (wǒ xiǎng dài nǐ chū qù chī fàn) — I’d like to take you to dinner.
Again, the bluntness is very much appreciated in most Mandarin-speaking cultures.
Another alternative would be 你想吃一点东西吗 (nǐ xiǎng chī yī diǎn dōng xī ma)? — Do you want to eat something small?/Do you want to eat a little something?
在我眼里你是最美的。(zài wǒ yǎn lǐ nǐ shì zuì měi de.) — To me, you are the most beautiful./In my eyes, you are the most beautiful.
Again, don’t throw something like this around! Pick-up lines are cheesy.
Use this term if you’re expressing your affection to someone you’ve known for a while.
你想回到我家吗? (nǐ xiǎng huí dào wǒ jiā ma?) — Would you like to come back to my place?
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Consent is important all over the world, so be sure to get a clear 是! (shì!) — Yes! or 不 (bù!) — No!
A more casual form of this phrase would be 你想回不回到我家吗? (nǐ xiǎng huí bù huí dào wǒ jiā ma?) — Would you like to come back to my place?
我喜欢你的笑容。(wǒ xǐ huān nǐ de xiào róng.) — I like your smile.
Come on, what woman or man wouldn’t blush at this?
你很甜 (nǐ hěn tián) — You’re so sweet.
If you’re being told this with a shy smile, congratulations! She/he is probably digging you! And if you want to test the waters to confirm if someone is similarly flirting with you, throw one of these at them. Their response and body language will have your answer.
As with any guide to flirting in any language, it’s important to mention that rejection happens to everyone. Don’t be too bummed out if a Mandarin-speaking person isn’t into you. There’s bound to be another fish in the sea, and Chinese people tend to find foreigners charming. Good luck!
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.