how to introduce yourself in chinese pinyin

Writing an Introduction? Here’s How to Introduce Yourself in Chinese Pinyin

How would you describe yourself?

It depends on the context, doesn’t it?

Are you filling out a social media profile? Meeting someone face-to-face for the first time? Writing a cover letter for a job application?

For Chinese language learners, writing in pinyin can be a tad tricky. But if you’re learning to write pinyin, chances are, you’ll have to write an introduction of yourself at some point.

If you’re trying to figure out how to introduce yourself in Chinese pinyin, we’re here to help.

First, we’ll load you up with useful phrases for written introductions in Chinese.

Second, we’ll cover etiquette and the common mindset, along with some “dos and do nots” so you’ll have an idea what your native Chinese reader might be thinking as they read your description.

Finally, each section will include tips for written introductions. When writing a Chinese self-intro essay, it will likely be to a person with a higher social status (including teachers), so the tips will be given as if you’re writing to a person with that higher social status.

The first step in combining Chinese language and culture involves being prepared to introduce yourself in Chinese at any moment. In a culture based on 关系 (guānxi – relationships), it’s crucial to be able to describe yourself accurately.
 


 

Everything You Need to Know to Introduce Yourself in Chinese Pinyin

Simple Chinese Greetings to Introduce Yourself

The basic Chinese greeting is a well-wish, using the word (hǎo) – good. Before saying hǎo, you can insert a time of day or a fitting pronoun. The standard greeting is 你好 (nǐ hǎo) – hello, meaning “you.”

Words and Phrases:

[personal pronoun] hǎo:

  • (nín) – the respectful form of the pronoun “you,” used for addressing elderly people or people with higher social or business status
  • 叔叔 (shū shu) – uncle, used for a man who’s old enough to be your father
  • 阿姨 (ā yí) – aunty, used for a woman could be your mom
  • 爷爷 (yè ye) – literally “father’s father,” used for a man who could be your grandfather
  • 奶奶 (nǎi nai) – literally “father’s mother,” used for a woman who could be your grandmother

[time of day] hǎo:

  • 早上 (zǎo shàng) – morning (before 8:00 a.m.)
  • 上午 (shàng wǔ) – morning (after 8:00 a.m.)
  • 下午 (xià wǔ) – afternoon
  • 晚上 (wǎn shàng) – evening

Etiquette:

The older a person is, the more respect they receive in Chinese culture. Calling someone who could be your grandma “grandma” is very well received, while calling her “aunty” may be viewed as insulting because her life experience wouldn’t be properly recognized.

Note: The phrase “Nice to meet you” will be covered in a later section. You’ll find out why it doesn’t make sense to say it at this point.

The Dos and Do Nots:

Do use your self-introduction to establish a relationship (guānxi) with the other person. The respect you show will go a long way.

how-to-introduce-yourself-in-chinese-pinyin

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Tip for written introductions:

To build good guānxi, use (nín) instead of () to address the person, as it’s more formal and respectful.

Introducing Your Name in Chinese

Words and Phrases:

In conversation, you’ll likely hear one of two questions asking for your name:

  • 怎么称呼您? (zěnme chénghū nín?) – How should I address you?
  • 你叫什么名字? (nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?) – What’s your name?

Etiquette:

  • The first question includes the respectful nǐn, meaning it should be used to address older people or people with higher social or business status. In less formal relationships, either question can be used. In both cases, you can respond:

我叫 (wǒ jiào) – My name is, and then say your name

  • When meeting someone face-to-face, the handshake principle is the more formal the relationship, the more important the handshake is.
  • Everything said and done should show an interest in wanting to know more about the other person. Specifics are much more well received than generic questions.

Dos and Do Nots:

  • Do shake hands when introducing yourself in business-relationship settings. This shows respect for the status of the other person.
  • Do not shake hands when meeting a potential new friend at a coffee shop. You might feel it shows respect for the other person, but to them it doesn’t show respect for the equal-ness of the relationship. (Of course, the trump card for all of this handshake business is: do shake hands with anyone that wants a handshake, regardless of the situation.)
  • Do not ask how they are by saying 你好吗? (nǐ hǎo ma?), which is the literal translation of “How are you?” The English “How are you?” doesn’t translate well, and the “How are you?”-“Good, and you?”-“Good” exchange doesn’t happen in Chinese.
  • Do use questions and phrases that show you’re taking an interest in them, thus… building guānxi.

吃饭了吗? (chī fàn le ma?) – Have you eaten yet? is a commonly used phrase that can be used after a typical meal time.

  • If you already know something about their job or family, do build that relationship by using 怎么样 (zěnme yàng) questions:
    • [topic of interest] zěnme yàng? – How’s [topic of interest]?
    • Topics of interest may include:
      • 生意 (shēngyì) – business, implying the person runs their own business
      • 工作 (gōngzuò) – work as an employee
      • 家人 (jiārén) – family members
      • 父母 (fùmǔ) – parents
      • 孩子 (háizi) – child or children
  • If you don’t know anything about them and it’s not around a meal time, do just jump into the conversation. (Yes, that says “do.” Not a typo!)

Tip for written introductions:

Make sure your reader “feels your handshake” through one phrase or sentence. (Remember, long handshakes are weird!) Write with respect for the other person’s status, but be confident with your words. For example, “Thank you for the chance to introduce myself as ["your student” "a professional ____,” etc.].”

Reacting to a Compliment

At any point after you say your name, your Chinese will likely be complimented. To be polite, they’ll compliment your Chinese regardless of how good it is.

They recognize the challenge of learning a language since most have at least studied English in school, so saying your Chinese is good is a way to elevate you. It’s now your mission to humbly reject such a lofty compliment.

Words and Phrases:

You’ll hear:

你的中文很好! (nǐ de zhōngwén hěn hǎo!) – Your Chinese is very good!

You should say:

  • 哪里哪里. (nǎlǐ nǎlǐ.) – literally “Where? Where?” implying “I don’t see anyone around here who deserves such a compliment!”
  • 没有. (méi yǒu.) – literally “don’t have,” implying you aren’t qualified for such a compliment

Etiquette:

  • The goal of rejecting compliments is to take the focus off of you and your abilities.
  • The other person will likely emphasize the compliment again. No matter how many times you hear it, reject it.

Dos and Do Nots:

Do not accept a compliment. However… if you can, deflect the compliment to someone else who really deserves it. This shows you know where the credit really goes. For example, after the other person compliments your Chinese, you could say:

让我的老师很高兴. (ràng wǒ de lǎoshī hěn gāoxìng.) – That would make my teacher very happy.

Tips for written introductions:

  • Your reader should know your Chinese level from the start. Your teacher likely already knows, but a potential client or boss won’t necessarily know. Don’t be afraid to admit:
    • 我还在学习中文. (wǒ hái zài xuéxí zhōngwén.) – I’m still learning Chinese.
    • 我的中文不太好. (wǒ de zhōngwén bú tài hǎo.) – My Chinese isn’t that great.
  • If you include a statement about your low Chinese level, it shouldn’t be the focal point of the sentence. For example, instead of “My Chinese isn’t that great,” you could say “Even though my Chinese isn’t that great, I’m happy to tell you a little bit about myself.” The expectation is set, and the focus is off of your Chinese.
  • Raise your written Chinese level as best you can. Your reader ultimately won’t care about your Chinese level until they finish reading, but if at any point they don’t understand what you’re trying to say, they may stop reading altogether.

Share Your Background to Introduce Yourself in Chinese

A good self-introduction in Chinese needs to describe your essence. That all starts with your background: where you’re from, your family, your education, your work situation and even your income. All of this forms a large part of who you are, so this information is important to share with Chinese people.

Because conversations—especially the first one—are all about building guānxi, the heart of the conversation starts immediately after exchanging names (hence the earlier “do” that you probably thought was a typo).

Tip for written introductions:

Read through this section and pay special attention to the viewpoints of Chinese culture. At the end of the section, we’ll talk a little more about how to use this information in a self-introduction.

Talking About: Where You’re from

Words and Phrases:

  • 你是哪里的? (nǐ shì nǎlǐ de?) – Where are you from?
  • 你是哪个国家的? (nǐ shì nǎge guójiā de?) – What country are you from?

You can answer:

  • 我是 ___ 的. (wǒ shì ___ de.) – I’m from ___.
  • 我来自___. (wǒ láizì ___.) – I’m from ___.

If you’re from the local area, you can say:

  • 我是本地的. (wǒ shì běndì de.) – I’m a local, literally “I’m from this place.”

If you ask them where they’re from (or vice versa) and the answer is a little ambiguous (most Chinese will just say “China”), you can say:

  • ___ 哪里?(___ nǎli?) – Where in ___?

The purpose of the “where you’re from” questions is really to understand what kind of environment you’re from, so you can use these kinds of words to help them paint a picture of you:

  • 农村 (nóngcūn) – rural area, literally “village”
  • 小城 (xiǎochéng) – small town
  • 城市 (chéngshì) – big city

If you want to explain how an environment may have influenced you even though you aren’t directly from there, you can add the word 附近 (fùjìn) – “nearby” after the description of where you’re from (e.g., chéngshì fùjìn – near a big city).

Etiquette:

Asking for more detail about where the person is from shows personal interest, which will help build guānxi.

Talking About: Family

Family is so important in Chinese culture that the language has a specific word for almost every family relationship.

For example, in English we would say “cousin,” but in Chinese it’s “your mom’s older sister’s daughter,” which is completely different from”your mom’s younger sister’s daughter.” Understanding your family relationships will help a Chinese person learn about your values and traits.

Words and Phrases:

Someone may ask you how your parents are doing:

你的父母怎么样? (nǐ de fùmǔ zěnme yàng?) – How are your parents?

To say your parents are doing well, you can say:

我的___还好. – (wǒ de ___ hái hǎo.) – My ___ is/are doing well.

  • 父母 (fùmǔ) – parents
  • 爸爸 (bàba) – dad
  • 妈妈 (māma) – mom

You may also be asked if you have any brothers and sisters:

你有几个兄弟姐妹? (nǐ yǒu jǐ ge xiōngdì jiěmèi?) – How many siblings do you have?

To say how many brothers and sisters you have, you can say:

我有how manyrelationship. (wǒ yǒu how many ge relationship) – I have however many of a certain type of relationship.

  • 哥哥 (gēge) – older brother
  • 弟弟 (dìdi) – younger brother
  • 姐姐 (jièjie) – older sister
  • 妹妹 (mèimei) – younger sister

You will likely be asked if you’re married:

  • 你结婚了吗? (nǐ jiéhūn le ma?) – Are you married?
  • If you’re married, you can say 结婚了. (jiéhūn le.) – I’m married.
  • If you’re dating, you can use the sibling sentence structure, minus the “how many” part:
    • 男朋友 (nán péngyou) – boyfriend
    • 女朋友 (nǚ péngyou) – girlfriend

You can use the sibling sentence structure for how many children you have also (if you’re married, you will be asked if you have children):

  • 孩子 (háizi) – child/children
  • 儿子 (érzi) – son
  • 女儿 (nǚér) – daughter

Etiquette:

Asking about a person’s family shows a desire to understand the person better.

Talking About: Your Education and Employment Situation

A person’s education and job situation reflect their current social status.

Words and Phrases:

You might be asked:

  • 你做什么工作? (nǐ zuò shénme gōngzuò?) – What do you do for work?
  • 是你的专业吗? (shì nǐ de zhuānyè ma?) – Is that your profession?

Notezhuānyè literally means “profession,” but the concept generally implies that it was your major in college, as well.

You could reply:

  • 我是 ___. (wǒ shì ___.) – I’m a ___.
  • 我做 ___.(wǒ zuò ___.) – I ___.
  • 我上(了)大学. (wǒ shàng (le) dàxué) – I attend(ed) a university.
  • 自学的. (zìxué de.) – I am self-taught.

Talking About: Your Income and Your Children’s Grades (Yeah, This Happens)

Similar to your education and job situation, your income and your children’s grades tell about your present situation in caring for yourself and your family, as well as what kind of future you might have. If the conversation gets this far, you will be asked about it.

  • ___ 怎么样? (___ zěnme yàng?) – How’s ___?
  • ___ 可以吗? (___ kěyǐ ma?) – Is ___ good enough?
  • 成绩 (chéngjì) – grades
  • 工资 (gōngzī) – income
  • 还可以. (hái kěyǐ.) – “Not bad.” Like in English, the tone of your voice shows how “not bad” it is.
  • 不错. (bú cuò.) – Pretty good/hard to complain.
  • 很好. (hěn hǎo.) – Very good/satisfying.

Etiquette:

The purpose of understanding the family size, history, hometown, income and children’s grades is to build a story of where a person and their family have come from and where they’re going. This reveals a lot about the type of person he or she is.

How can these topics possibly be socially acceptable? In English-speaking cultures, society tries to promote the idea that everyone is equal. It’s a concept that has required a lot of establishment over the centuries, so we don’t talk about income, education, etc. to show we aren’t trying to classify people.

Chinese culture has historically focused more on person-to-person relationships, so you’re essentially interacting in a culture that’s based on a whole bunch of people just getting to know each other.

If it takes time to get used to talking about these details of your life, don’t feel bad. At the same time, it helps if you recognize that when you’re asked these questions, they just want to get to know you.

Dos and Do Nots:

These conversations typically happen over tea or food. Hospitality is a big part of Chinese culture, so even if it’s their first time meeting you, they’ll probably still invite you to tea or a meal. This shows their willingness to spend time with you and build guānxi.

  • If you have the time, do accept their offer to have tea or food. This shows your willingness to spend time with them and build guānxi.
    • They might say something like: 我们喝茶吧. (wǒmen hē chá ba.) – Let’s have some tea.
    • You should say: 好的 (hǎo de) or 可以 (kěyǐ) with a smile. Both phrases carry the “that sounds good” meaning, but without the smile, your willingness could be misunderstood as “I guess I have to.”
  • Do ask for their phone number or WeChat information. If you have time for tea, ask for this contact info before you leave. If you don’t have time for tea, ask for it so you can make plans to meet again. This shows you view the relationship as worth continuing.
    • 可以给你我的电话号码吗?(kěyǐ gěi nǐ wǒ de diàn huà hào mǎ ma?) – Could I give you my phone number?
    • 我们加微信吧. (wǒmen jiā wēixìn ba.) – Let’s add each other’s WeChat.

Grammar note: Saying (ba) is very important. It means you’re suggesting something. If you don’t say “ba,” you’re telling them what to do.

    • For more formal relationships: 可以加您的微信吗? (kěyǐ jiā nín de wēixìn ma?) – Can I add your WeChat?

Grammar note: (ma) is a word that basically adds a question mark to a sentence. For formal relationships, you want to ask permission, not make a suggestion.

  • While we’re on the topic of tea/food: Do fight for the bill when it comes time to pay. This is important because it shows you aren’t just taking advantage of their generosity.

Cultural note: Do let them pay the bill. This is a way to “give face” (给面子gěi miàn zi).

Tips for written introductions:

  • If you know something about the reader, use that to recognize their life experience. For example, if they have a child, you can say that although you faced a certain challenge in your life, it was not as complex as raising a child would be. This is a way to gěi miàn zi.
  • Offer deeper information about your background. For example, to describe where you’re from, avoid phrases such as “not many people,” “busy streets” or “lots of diversity.” Instead, talk about how those details affected you (e.g., “because there weren’t many people, I learned to build close friendships with the people around me.”)
  • Your self-intro shouldn’t include opinions on hot topics. Because you don’t have the reader’s viewpoint on a given topic, you won’t know if you will offend them or not. The reader knows you don’t have their viewpoint, so even if they happen to agree with you, you will 丢面子 (diū miàn zi) – literally “lose face,” meaning damage your reputation.

Talk About What You Do for Fun

Most conversations between Chinese people don’t require the “where are you from?” part because they take for granted that they’re from China. In those cases, they’ll skip straight from “What’s your name?” to “What do you like to do?”

Words and Phrases:

  • 你喜欢做什么? (nǐ xǐhuān zuò shénme?) – What do you like to do?
  • 我喜欢 ___.(wǒ xǐhuān ___.) – I like to ___.

You may be asked how long you’ve had that hobby:

你什么时候开始___? (nǐ shénme shíhou kāishǐ ___?) – When did you start doing ___?

You could respond:

  • 我 ___ 岁开始. (___ suì kāishǐ) – I started when I was ___.
  • 我从小喜欢. (wǒ cóng xiǎo xǐhuān) – I’ve liked it since I was little.
  • when有兴趣了. ( when yǒuxìngqù le.) – I got interested at a certain time.

At this point, it would be natural for you to volunteer why you like doing what you do:

  • 我觉得好玩. (wǒ juéde hǎo wán.) – I think it’s fun, a phrase you can use to express simple enjoyment.
  • 让我 ___. (ràng wǒ ___.) – It makes me feel a certain way, a phrase that expresses contentment.
    • 轻松 (qīngsōng) – relaxed
    • 高兴 (gāoxìng) – happy
    • 期待 (qīdài) – also meaning “happy,” but from doing something exciting
  • 给我 ___.(gěi wǒ ___.) – It gives me a certain feeling, a phrase to explain deeper reasons.
    • 安全感 (ānquángǎn) – a sense of security
    • 满足感 (mǎnzúgǎn) – a sense of satisfaction
    • 一点幸福感 (yīdiǎn xìngfúgǎn) – a small sense of happiness

Note: xìngfú is viewed as an ultimate goal in life, so if you reach xìngfú through your hobbies, they’ll probably think of you as a very shallow person, or they’ll conclude you have no idea what you’re talking about

    • 成就感 (chéngjiùgǎn) – a sense of accomplishment

Etiquette:

  • If you’re single, ask and talk about what you like to do with someone who’s the same gender as you, unless you’re looking to start a romantic relationship with the other person.
  • If you’re married, ask and talk about what you like to do with someone who’s the same gender as you, unless your significant other is there with you. A married person of the opposite sex having this conversation might be misunderstood as wanting an external relationship.

Dos and Do Nots:

  • Do not make constant eye contact in the conversation. This can be read as defiance, arrogance or even disrespect.
  • Do make casual eye contact in the conversation. This implies you’re both paying attention and thinking about what they’re saying.
  • Do not talk about religion, politics, sexuality or any other topic with polarized opinions. Your goal is to find a common ground to build your guānxi on, not to find reasons for conflict.
  • Also, do not talk about death. Just don’t.

Tips for written introductions:

  • Use the questions in the above section as an outline of what your reader might want to know about you.
  • Leave space for growth in the relationship. Include only one personal story in your essay. You don’t want to overrun your reader with all kinds of information about you that doesn’t seem cohesive.
  • A story about what you like to do and why you like to do it is a perfect way to introduce yourself in writing. Take your reader through all of your feelings, show how you overcome challenges, explain why the risks are worth the rewards, etc. This is a great way for your reader to learn about you.

Concluding Your Self-Introduction

Remember how we avoided “nice to meet you” earlier? At the beginning of the conversation, all you knew was the person’s name. You didn’t know anything else about them. Now, after this conversation, you know something about the person, and they know something about you. This is the time to say it.

Words and Phrases:

很高兴认识你. (hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ.) – It was nice to become acquainted with you, literally “I’m happy to have become acquainted with you.”

In a more formal, less developed relationship, you could say:

谢谢您的时间. (xièxie nín de shíjiān.) – Thank you for your time. This is especially respectful if the meet-and-greet was short, implying they didn’t have a lot of time to give you to begin with.

Etiquette:

If the person is still addressing you as nǐn by this point (which could be perfectly normal), they still see you with respect, although not yet with friendship. This is not a bad thing, so don’t worry if it happens.

Dos and Do Nots:

  • Do not verbally take the initiative to break the relationship out of nǐn. Leave that for the other person. Ultimately, they know more about the culture than you do.
  • Do offer to do something together as friends if you want to go from nǐn to nǐ, but without pressuring them into doing it.

Tips for written introductions:

  • Make sure the whole piece of writing has the nǐn feel to it. The reader must see your self-respect and respect for their status at the same time.
  • Conclude respectfully, but firmly, like a goodbye handshake. For example, you could say something like “Although I have some experience in life, there’s always more to learn.”

 

If you make a mistake here and there with your self-introduction in Chinese, don’t stress! People will understand that Chinese is your second language and that you’re trying your best.

If you just act with self-awareness and cultural respect, Chinese people will be very impressed.

You’re all ready to go out and build up some good guānxi!

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