You’re Welcome

After my last post on the perils and pitfalls of excessively saying thanks in China, I thought I'd do the obvious thing and talk about what comes next.

Whenever I work with a group of newcomers to China, I try to teach them some very basic survival Chinese phrases to help them get around.  This includes giving them a few ways to say 'thank you' in various social settings.  Almost without fail, someone will ask me the question "how do you say 'you're welcome' in Chinese?"  My response is always the same:  "You don't. There's no way to say 'you're welcome' in Chinese."  This is always followed by a quizzical look. 

I then proceed to tell them that, from the standpoint of good language learning, that's not even the right question to ask.  The question they need to be asking is "what do you say in Chinese to respond to expressions of thanks?"  There are numerous ways of doing that, but none of them are the equivalent of 'you're welcome' because politeness in Chinese culture dictates that the expression of thanks be deflected instead of being received.  Politeness dictates that they are deflected:  meishi (it's nothing); bu keqi (don't be so polite); or mei guanxi (it doesn't matter). 

So to those who wrote to say thanks for that last post…..bu keqi!! 

Shameless Promotion:  I wrote a small book called "Survival Chinese Lessons" to help people get started learning Chinese.  It can be purchased from Lucerna Publishing in Minneapolis.