In our last post we looked at some tips that will help you maintain your cool when dinning out in China. Well, sadly, just looking cool isn’t enough these days; in order to impress your date, you’ll also have to utter some Chinese phrases. But, hold your horses, if you want to know exactly what you should say, you’ll first need to understand what the waiter/waitress or FúWùYuán (服务员) is saying that you. That is, if you decide to go somewhere fancy: the fancier the joint, the more speaking and understanding you’ll be required to do (in your common restaurant you’ll do fine by just pointing at the photos on the wall and then graciously accepting the plate shoved in front of you).
For a slightly more elegant experience, we’ve selected some phrases that you’ll likely hear when eating there (you can judge how fancy the place really is by the amount of respectful Nin Hao-s thrown your way).
The structure of this mini lesson shall be as follows: cue followed by the Chinese characters, Pinyin and finally translation.
- Cue: Upon entering the restaurant:
欢迎光临 HuānYíng GuāngLín Welcome
- Cue: When you are handed something hot (soup, drink, hot towel):
小心烫 XiǎoXīn Tàng Be careful, it’s hot.
- Cue: A waiter/waitress approaches the table with an eager expression, pen and paper in their hands:
您好，可以点菜了吗？ Nín Hǎo, KěYǐ DiǎnCài Le Ma? Are you ready to order?
- Cue: The waiter starts reading from the little paper – at this point just start nodding, it’s impossible to understand what they are saying (the names of Chinese dishes tend to be quite imaginative)
我为您复述一下菜单。Wǒ Wèi Nín FùShù YīXià CàiDān. I’ll repeat the order.
- Cue: The waiter/waitress approaches the table with a bottle of wine/beer/champagne that you’ve ordered:
您好，这是您点的酒水，请问现在可以为您打开了吗？Nín Hǎo, ZhèShi Nín Diǎn De JiǔShuǐ, QǐngWèn XiànZài KěYǐ Wéi Nín DǎKāi Le Ma? This is the the wine/beer/champagne that you’ve ordered, can I open it for you now?
- Cue: After a couple of trips, the waiter/waitress approaches the table yet again:
您的菜已经上齐。 Nín De Cài YǐJīng Shàng Qí. All of your dishes have been served.
- Cue: Your plate is messy, a waiter/waitress approaches with a clean plate:
您好，我帮你们换个小盘吗？Nín Hǎo, Wǒ Bàng NǐMen Huàn Ge XiǎoPán Ma? Can I change the plate for you?
- Cue: You’ve finished eating, but you still have some drinking/smoking/talking to do; the understanding waiter/waitress approaches:
您好，我可以清理桌子吗？Nín Hǎo, Wǒ KěYǐ QīngLǐ ZhuōZi Ma? Can I clear the table for you?