Manners are an extremely important part of any culture, especially when you are a visiting tourist and foreigner. It’s always good to know a few basic phrases so you can be polite.
As a foreigner, you stick out like a sore thumb in any given social situation, and unfortunately likely to draw a lot of attention to yourself if not polite. This is both a good and bad thing depending on the person — and the situation.
Being a foreigner can work to your advantage, as some locals are lenient — and forgiving of your social awkwardness, or apparent lack of manners. They might think you just don’t understand the culture.
However, it can also be a negative thing — you may be stereotyped as a rude or obnoxious foreigner.
Be polite by using a few basic phrases
To avoid falling headfirst into that negative stereotype, it pays to do your homework: Learn a few basic phrases, and learn the cultural norms, so you can smooth over any situations that you may clumsily find yourself in.
“I’m sorry” is a handy phrase to use in many situations, such as if you accidentally bump into someone on the street. Or someone is cross with you, and you are unclear about the reason.
A simple “Dui Bu Qi” (dway boo chi), meaning I’m sorry, will quickly smooth things over as it literally means: I can’t face you, or I’ve failed you. Therefore, you are placing yourself below that individual. The angry person should instantly cool down and reply by saying: “Mei Guan Xi” (my gwan shi).
In the below video, the Learn Chinese Now team help us become confident in using Mandarin to say “I’m sorry” and “No problem” as a response in China or Taiwan:
Learning some local dialect enriches your travel experiences immensely, and may one day even save your hide!
The local people do not usually have a problem when you get the language wrong in your attempts — they are happy that you are being friendly and trying to communicate. If you mix your words up and get the phrasing wrong — at worst they think you are cute, or funny, tell their friends about it, and have a laugh at your expense.