Dining out?

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Some of my students feel the Chinese language is easy to understand when you consider the different characters or words as building blocks, however they feel the language is sometimes too abrupt or even rude. For example, let’s talk about the useful phrases when we dine in a restaurant.

Key Sentences Meaning
W:几(jǐ)位(wèi)?

G:7位(wèi)。

Waitress: How many people?

Guest: Seven.

给(gěi)我(wǒ)菜(cài)单(dān) Give me the menu.
点(diǎn)菜(cài) Order.
上(shàng)菜(cài) Serve the dishes.
买(mǎi)单(dān)。 Pay the bill.

*位(wèi) is a polite way of counting people. 

Here are the ways of saying your special request:

在(zài)这(zhè)里(lǐ)吃(chī)。

打(dǎ)包(bāo)。

Having here.

Take away.

不(bú)要(yào)辣(là)椒(jiāo)。 No chilli.
不(bú)要(yào)冰(bīng)。 No ice.

If you think this is too direct or rude, add in the word “ke yi” which means “can” and say the requests as questions:

可(kě)以(yǐ)给(gěi)我(wǒ)一(yī)杯(bēi)冰(bīng)水(shuǐ)吗(ma)? Can I have a cup of ice water?
可(kě)以(yǐ)打(dǎ)包(bāo)这(zhè)个(ge)吗(ma)? Can I take away this?

One way to understand this way of talking in a Chinese restaurant is to dig the culture behind the language. It is common for a waiter to chat with you and ask you about the food in a western restaurant, but the Chinese people normally would just concentrate on their guests and the food rather than being friendly with the restaurant staff, so the waiter/waitress won’t talk too much unless it is part of their training or you are a regular 🙂

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