Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

China Fact- In China a ‘Maybe’ is a ‘No’ and a ‘Yes’ is Sometimes a ‘No’

Posted by w_thames_the_d on August 26, 2010


Mandarin has a way to say yes and no, dui and bu or bu dui, and also for maybe or perhpas, ke neng. The problem is that Chinese do not like to say ‘no’ so this word essentially becomes useless. Then, to add to this convention, they will often use perhaps, or maybe to mean no, confused? Good, so was I, but with my help, you will no longer be confused….

Here is a scenario in China, this happens on a daily basis.
I go to the laundy to get my clothes dry cleaned, the lady tells me that they can have it done in 3 days. I say this is unacceptable and I need it in 2 (this is actually rude as I am putting her on the spot). She will not say ‘no I cannot do that’, as by saying no, she is causing me to lose face, so she hints at it. She will hem and haw, and say “uh that is difficult, and that will take a lot of effort”. To me this means nothing as I think, ‘ok well all jobs take effort, so just get to it sis’. But what she is telling me is that she cannot do it, I am a westerner and do not understand, so I say “ok great, so I can have it in two days?” she looks down and says, “maybe”, i smile and walk away, return in two days and its not done. I am furious…

Here is the reality of communicating with Chinese
you enter a store
you

One Response to “China Fact- In China a ‘Maybe’ is a ‘No’ and a ‘Yes’ is Sometimes a ‘No’”

  1. not sure why you’d be furious when you already said ‘But what she is telling me is that she cannot do it”. another day without clean clothes? just enjoy it! no big deal 🙂

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