As long as you know a little bit about China and have done research to come to internship in China or may be just an summer internship in China, you will know that food and eating is a BIG deal. When Chinese people are bragging about their food, you should know they are not joking and with average salary in China increasing rapidly their expenditure for food is also increasing at a high rate. Food life in Shanghai, Beijing and every other cities is highly diversified for Chinese people.Here are 6 food related phrases and sayings in China.
1. China or ChiNa?
It won’t be hard for you to notice how much people love food in China, not only Chinese people, but everybody! The name of this country, China, if you see it as Pinyin (the pronunciation of Chinese characters), as a play on words it becomes: Chi Na 吃哪? Which means: “Where to eat?” in Chinese, so you can see that food is on Chinese people’s minds all the time.
2. Have You Eaten Yet
你吃了吗？Ni chi le ma? You might wonder why you find yourself getting asked this all the time. In fact, you will hear people greet each other at any time of the day by saying “Have you eaten?” Some of my foreign friends always get confused and never know how to answer this question. It’s a bit like how Chinese people feel and even slightly start to panic when asked, “How are you?” by foreigners. Although the standard response a lot of Chinese people would normally give is, “I’m fine, thank you and you?” most of them are really thinking “Does he really want to know how I feel? Should I give him the honest answer that I’m not well today?”
So just like “How are you?”, “Have you eaten?” is just a regular greeting. You can just honestly answer it according to the real situation and make it short, like “Yes, I have”, “Yes, I just had lunch”, “No, not yet”, “No, I will a bit later”, or you don’t even have to think about it, and just use these responses randomly. Alternatively, if you feel like it’s kind of an embarrassing time of day between any of the meals, you can say something like, “Yes, I had breakfast,” or “Not yet, it’s too early for dinner”.
3. All Creatures Great & Small, We Like to Eat Them All
You may have heard it said that Chinese people eat everything. It is true that I don’t think you will ever see a group of Westerners at Marine World admiring the sea creatures and amazing variety of fish in tanks wondering whether they would taste better steamed or fried. But I have been to an aquarium and as we were looking at the octopus in one tank my friend commented in an eager voice, “I wanna eat that!”
There is a saying in Chinese:
天上带翅膀的，除了飞机不吃 Tian shang dai chi bang de, chu le fei ji bu chi
地上带腿儿的，除了桌子不吃 Di shang dai tui-er de, chu le zhuo zi bu chi
Which translates as: “Everything in the sky with wings, except for a plane, we eat. Everything on earth with legs, except for table, we eat.”
4. Why We Are Protective of Our Land
This phrase says: No matter if it is Taiwan, Xizang or Xinjiang, We cannot give up one centimeter of land…. Who knows what delicious things the land may offer to eat there?!
5. Invasive Species, Welcome!
This phrase talks about the invasive crayfish (also known as langoustine). It says that the crayfish are losing face as they have not been successful to do their job as a pesky invasive species, due to the fact that Chinese people love to eat them! In fact, if any invasive species were to succeed in China, it would obviously be due to one reason: because they did not taste good to eat!
6. There are 3 Types of things in this world
In China, things can be placed into 3 categories:
1- Can be directly eaten
2- Looks like it can be eaten
3- Must discover a way for it to be eaten
So don’t be surprised when you come to China if you encounter all kinds of weird and wonderful things on the menu. Give them a try, after all Chinese food is one of the most popular and loved cuisines in the world. If it can be eaten, we will have found a way to make it taste good!
She is our Program Development Director: Lianne is an Expert in Career change, Life coaching, personal and professional development. She has worked with youth centers in Beijing, Hong Kong and Brooklyn - New York mentoring youth and young adults.