How to Introduce Yourself in Chinese: A Complete Guide
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.
The simplest way to introduce yourself in Chinese is to say 你好 (nǐ hǎo) meaning “hello” and 我叫 (wǒ jiào) meaning “my name is.”
But, if you want to know even more about the different ways you can introduce yourself and information about you in Chinese, we’re here to help.
- Simple Chinese Greetings to Introduce Yourself
- Introducing Your Name in Chinese
- Asking About The Other Person
- Reacting to a Compliment
- Share Your Background to Introduce Yourself in Chinese
- Concluding Your Self-Introduction
- 12 Etiquette Tips for Chinese Conversation
- And One More Thing...
Simple Chinese Greetings to Introduce Yourself
The basic Chinese greeting is a well-wish, using the word 好 (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, nǐ meaning “you.”
[Personal pronoun] hǎo:
您 (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
Introducing Your Name in Chinese
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?
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
Asking About The Other Person
You should use questions and phrases that show you’re taking an interest in the person you’re conversing with, thus… building guānxi. For example, 吃饭了吗? (chī fàn le ma?) meaning “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, just jump into the conversation!
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
Talking About: Where You’re From
If someone asks:
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).
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.
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 many 个 relationship. (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
Talking About: Your Education and Employment Situation
A person’s education and job situation reflect their current social status.
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?
Note: zhuānyè 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.
Talking About: Hospitality
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.”
You should also 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 吧 (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: 吗 (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.
Talking 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?“
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 (wǒ ___ suì kāishǐ) — I started when I was ___
我从小喜欢 (wǒ cóng xiǎo xǐhuān) — I’ve liked it since I was little
我 when有兴趣了 (wǒ 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
成就感 (chéngjiùgǎn) — A sense of accomplishment
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
Concluding Your Self-Introduction
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 things such as:
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.
If you want to consolidate what you’ve learned about Chinese introductions and conversations, you could try a language learning platform like FluentU to see how the above phrases and vocabulary work in practice.
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12 Etiquette Tips for Chinese Conversation
In Chinese culture, there are certain things you should pay attention to in order to ensure that you are being respectful, such as particular aspects of your body language. Here are 12 tips to take note of:
1. 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.
2. Do shake hands when introducing yourself in business-relationship settings. This shows respect for the status of the other person.
3. However, 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.)
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Don’t make constant eye contact in the conversation. This can be read as defiance, arrogance or even disrespect.
8. Do make casual eye contact in the conversation. This implies you’re both paying attention and thinking about what they’re saying.
9. Don’t 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.
10. Don’t 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.
11. If you’re meeting someone over food or drinks, 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. However, do let them pay the bill. This is a way to “give face” or 给面子 (gěi miàn zi).
12. 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.
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!
And One More Thing...
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