Useful Language Phrases

There is a diverse language culture in Hong Kong, with many locals trilingual in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. English is widely used in commercial activities and for legal matters, while British spelling is followed for placenames and in most schools.

While it’s not necessary to learn Cantonese to get around in the city as there is a good standard of English, a little can go a long way and locals will be delighted if you can speak a few words to them in their mother tongue. If you want to say hello, it’s “lei ho”; good morning is “jo sahn” and “joi gin” means see you soon. Thank you is “mm goi” and, if you’re going to the market or in a taxi, then a useful phrase to know is, “gay chin a?”, which translates as how much is it.

Some phrases you may come across during your time in the city include yum cha (literally, drink tea), which refers to the popular pastime of eating dim sum delights like char siu bau, or barbecued pork buns, and other delicacies with friends and family; dai pai dong (traditional street food stall) and ding uk (village house). Want to impress your Cantonese colleagues with some slang? “Juk chung” means getting yourself in trouble and “fut hai’ describes someone who takes a Buddhist-style, laid back approach to life.