Saturday, January 10, 2009

Are You From China?

I'm actually surprised that while in China - mainly in Hangzhou & Wuzhen, I've been many times mistaken to come from mainland China.

Now, I'm not just saying about the Chinese looks, but they also thought that I speak like them. Haha - how's that for an English speaking & educated Chinese from Malaysia!

Anyway, here are some tips, I learnt on the ways the Chinese speak.

1. Ni Hao at the start of the conversation is used quite often, and not just in shops.

2. No need to be super nice/ polite/ friendly... just be direct.
There's no need to go round the bush talking about what we need, but just to the point. Eg in the cab, just say where you want to go.

There's no need to say "I want to go to..." but just "the place".

3. 'Zai na'? (Where?)
Emphasis heavily on the 'na' as 'nar'.

4. Emphasis on certain mandarin words in the sentence.
I don't know how to explain this, but for the fluent Chinese speakers, I'm sure you'll know what I mean. Even if you are like me, you'll roughly get it after a while.

5. Strong Mandarin accent
Despite at times being mentioned that I speak too strongly (and at times being mistaken to speak like Koreans/ Japanese speaking Mandarin), but this is roughly the standard way of speaking.

After a good 10 days, however, when back in Shanghai, I didn't 'score' too well thereafter as partly I was tired of putting so much emphasis on my speaking... and somehow, they kinda speak a lil differently (though I still got about 50% thinking I'm from mainland China)! haha.

The Chinese Look
But anyway, minus the slang, most couldn't guess by the look. Afterall, Chinese from all over (including the Japanese and Koreans) kinda look the same - except pointed by one Shanghainese: that the Shanghainese are taller.

And I also think they walk with a strut and a straight back, with full confidence (this mainly happens to the Shanghainese).

Talking bout looks, for the ladies, if you want to 'blend in' (which may come in handy when bargaining), wear high heels, and I mean super high heels. And maybe mini skirts with no socks but with boots instead - in the cold weather! (yes, they do that!) - brrr!

Honestly, it feels nice at times to be able to mistaken as one of them... and is especially sweet for someone who is still learning Mandarin lots! :)

Coming up next: the direct opposite - When I know these are not from China!


  1. One of the things that some people don't realise is that lots of mainland Chinese aren't fluent in (proper) Mandarin.

    They can mostly speak and understand it, but each region would have a strong slang/tone... and sometimes it's hard to tell if a Chinese speaker is from overseas or just another state.

  2. I think this still depends on the province. China is very big. :D

    China itself has a lot of local tourists, no wonder you can be mistaken for a Mainlander. But the locals can know if you're not from their province.

    Great post!

  3. quachee, at least u can "bluff" yr way through.. haha.. as for me, i am almost mandarin illiterate, i cannot catch what they r trying to say, i really regret not taking up mandarin during my earlier days...
    but i still like to go china..nevertheless..

  4. I was in Guangzhou several years back. I noticed that many Guangzhou natives spoke Mandarin with Cantonese accent. Actually I spoke better Mandarin than many of them.

    And the old guys in Malaysia's Dongjiaozong 董教总 are still unhappy...

  5. eh i can differentiate between chinese, japanese and korean :P

  6. i don't think we have to purposely Try to be them. in fact, we are pretty much unique as well. ;)

  7. @yeinjee
    ur right. actually, ive noticed on this too :)

    haha you are spot on on this one :)

    yes, let not language be a barier. actually my family and friends were a bit concerned too, but i tell them, even the non chinese go to china, so there's really nothing to be worried about :)

    its the case of 'holier than thou'. a lot of people always think they are better off. what a lot of people forget is that we are malaysians - we have made malaysia home, and we have our own style :)

    i thought so too. usually, we can. but there are times when it gets blurred. hehe. and in any asian country ive visited, ive always told that i look like them - from korea to indonesia, thailand to singapore and even vietnam haha

    ur right. we dont as we should be proud as malaysians :) but it helps when buying things hehe :)

  8. "The Chinese look" for ladies is wearing pyjamas to go shopping. Thats the sure way to get the best prices.


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