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10 Places to Visit in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a colorful city with lots to offer. With a breathtaking skyline, numerous shopping arcades and markets, a great deal of bustling bars, and the highest concentration of restaurants offering both international and local cuisines, this tiny city has it all.

Can’t wait to visit Hong Kong and see one of the world’s greatest cities? Then dive into this Hong Kong travel guide from CantoneseClass101.com for practical travel tips, a list of places you just have to see, and some survival phrases in Cantonese to help you make the most of your trip!

Hong Kong Skyline

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Before You Go
  2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip
  3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)
  4. Personal Picks
  5. Cantonese Survival Phrases
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Before You Go

Are you visiting Hong Kong for the first time? Then you’ll greatly benefit from becoming familiar with this magical city and learning how to best prepare for your trip. To give you a head start, here are some quick facts and travel tips for you! 

Quick Facts

Let’s start with a few basic facts you should know…

  • Currency: HKD (the thirteenth most traded currency in the world) 
  • Official Languages: Cantonese and English
  • Ethnicities: Han Chinese (92%), Ethnic Minorities (8%, mostly Filipino or Indonesian)
  • Climate: Subtropical climate zone

Hong Kong is located at the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea in Southeast Asia. With a land mass of 1,104 km2 and a population of 7 million people, Hong Kong is the world’s most densely populated city. Hong Kong is also highly developed and ranks fourth on the UN Human Development Index.

This city is known for its strong role in the trade, business, and tourism industries, and it ranks third as a global financial center (after New York and London). It’s the richest city in the world.

Hong Kong can be broken down into four main parts: 

  • Hong Kong Island: This island is labeled “the heart of Hong Kong,” and this is where you’ll find the majority of its businesses. You can also find lots and lots of skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and quite a few tourist attractions (including the Victoria Peak).
  • Kowloon: This is where you can find most of the museums and markets.
  • The New Territories: This area is known for its wetland parks and temples.
  • Outlying Islands: Hong Kong also has a couple hundred outlying islands. One such island is Lantau Island, which is home to Ngong Ping (where you can find the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery) and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Background

In 1842, the British made Hong Kong a crown colony; the city was under British rule and influence for over 150 years. Hong Kong was released back to China in 1997, under the “one country, two systems” structure. Today, Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China.

Considering its history, Hong Kong is very different from China socially, culturally, politically, and economically:

  • Socially, Hong Kong enjoys greater freedom of speech. The usage of social media such as Facebook and Twitter are allowed.
  • Culturally, the dominating language in Hong Kong is Cantonese (with Traditional Chinese), as opposed to Mandarin (with Simplified Chinese) in China. Hong Kong also has its own education and legal systems adopting the common law.
  • Politically, Hong Kong has its own government and parliament. It also has its own immigration system, so even people from mainland China have to go through immigration checks upon arriving in Hong Kong.
  • Economically, Hong Kong embraces economic freedom and allows the free flow of capital.

Several HKD10 Bills

Travel Tips

Planning a trip to Hong Kong can be a stressful task, especially if you’ve never been before. Here are a few travel tips to help you plan and make your visit a lot more enjoyable. 

Best Time to Visit 

Hong Kong is situated in the subtropical climate zone and has four seasons: a very humid spring, a rainy summer, an amiable autumn, and a cool winter. Hong Kong is subjected to tropical cyclones from May to September. The average annual temperature is 23°C (73.4°F).

Based on the weather, many would agree that the best time to visit Hong Kong is during the months of October and November, when the temperature is pleasant with ample sunshine. 

Transportation

The transportation system of Hong Kong is highly developed and has great coverage. Most signs are in both Traditional Chinese and English, and you can conveniently access most places via:

  • Mass Transit Railway (or MTR) – This is Hong Kong’s railway system that links Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories. Trains come in every minute during rush hour.
  • Buses and minibuses
  • Tramways (only on Hong Kong Island)
  • Ferries (between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, and to the Outlying Islands) 
  • Taxis

If you plan to stay overnight in Hong Kong, you can buy an Octopus card. It can be used to pay for almost all public transport (plus many convenience stores and supermarkets).

A Sign Showing the Name of a MTR Station

Cost

How expensive is it to visit Hong Kong? 

You should plan to spend around HKD1,085 (USD 140) per day. This is just an average, and your own expenses will vary based on your dining, transportation, and lodging preferences. On average, people spend…

  • …HKD205 (USD 26) on meals per day.
  • …HKD55 (USD 7.04) on local transportation per day.
  • …HKD959 (USD 124) on hotels per night (for a couple). 

Other

  • Hong Kong is quite safe to travel to.
  • Many shops in Hong Kong close late, and some are even open twenty-four hours (fast food shops, convenience stores,certain supermarkets, etc.). 
  • There are many bars and clubs, so you can look forward to Hong Kong’s vibrant nightlife. 
  • Hong Kong is a Cantonese-speaking society, but most people do speak basic English because English is compulsory in school. Also, due to historical reasons, English is one of the official languages in Hong Kong. 

2. Must-See Places for a 1-3 Day Trip

If you’re only visiting Hong Kong for a day or two, you may want to prioritize the most popular attractions. Here are our recommendations for a shorter trip. 

1 – Victoria Peak (太平山)

Located on Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak is not only the island’s highest point but also one of the city’s top attractions. From the top, you gain a whimsical view of the cityscape and Victoria Harbour—if you can, visit in the evening for an even more spectacular sight!

Victoria Peak

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station and exit at Exit J2. Then, cross the Chater Garden and walk along Garden Road. You’ll see the Peak Tram Terminus on your left. Take the tram to get to the peak.

2 – Mong Kok (旺角)

This is one of the more local parts of the city, famous for shopping and food. The streets of Mong Kok are always crammed with people, especially at night. The area’s unique dynamic blends old shops with new ones, and fashionable restaurants with street stalls. You can find everything from clothes and cosmetics to electronics, sports equipment, and more.

Mong Kok

How to get there: Take MTR to Mong Kok Station and exit at Exit B2 or B3.

3 – Star Ferry (天星小輪)

If you want a great view of Victoria Harbour, take the Star Ferry from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui (or vice-versa). It costs only HKD3.7 (~USD 0.5) and takes less than ten minutes. The ferry is also a great place to take a short rest from the bustling metropolitan area of Hong Kong.

Victoria Harbour

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station/Hong Kong Station and walk to Central Pier 7. Alternatively, you can take MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station/East Tsim Sha Tsui Station and walk to the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Pier on Salisbury Road.

4 – Ngong Ping / The Giant Buddha (昂坪 / 天壇大佛)

Located on the more relaxing Lantau Island, the Giant Buddha is one of the world’s largest bronze statues of Buddha, at 34 meters tall. Visitors who want to reach the Buddha must climb up a couple hundred steps or take a drive up the road that leads to it. After such a climb, visitors can walk around and rest at Ngong Ping Village and Ngong Ping Tea House.

Ngong Ping 360

How to get there: Take MTR to Tung Chung Station and then take bus no. 23. Alternatively, you can take the cable car Ngong Ping 360 to better enjoy the scenic view of Lantau Island. 

3. Highly Recommended Places for a 4-7 Day Trip (or Longer)

Will you be staying in Hong Kong a little longer? Great! This will give you ample time to see even more of this beautiful city. Here are the places we recommend you visit during a longer stay. 

5 – Ocean Park (海洋公園)

Ocean Park is a marine-life theme park that offers rides, shows, tours, and family-friendly attractions and activities. One of its main attractions is a roller coaster ride that “dives into the sea”! The theme park is also located in a more scenic part of Hong Kong, and you can enjoy a great seaview in the cable car.

How to get there: Take MTR to Ocean Park Station.

6 – Stanley (赤柱)

Stanley is a beautiful little fishing town by the bay. It’s not very big, but it has tons of small shops and a lovely beach. You can suntan on the beach, take a walk through the trees’ shade, and enjoy a great view of the romantic mansions. To unwind, you can also grab a drink at a coffee shop, check out the food markets, or grab a souvenir for your loved ones.

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station and exit at Exit D, then take bus no. 6, 6A, 6X, 66, or 260 at Central (Exchange Square) Bus Terminus.

7 – Avenue of Stars & Symphony of Lights (星光大道 / 幻彩詠香江)

The Avenue of Stars showcases Hong Kong’s film industry—you can find the names, signatures, and handprints of the city’s greatest stars on the promenade. There’s even a bronze statue of the legendary Bruce Lee!

Another reason to visit the Avenue of Stars is the Symphony of Lights. This is a light show at Victoria Harbour which incorporates a dazzling array of colorful lights accompanied by music, featuring 44 of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers—both in Kowloon and on the Hong Kong Island side of Victoria Harbour. 

How to get there: Take MTR to East Tsim Sha Tsui Station and exit at Exit J. 

8 – Lan Kwai Fong / Central (蘭桂坊 / 中環)

Central is the core of Hong Kong’s finances and businesses (and where you can find the most skyscrapers per capita). Lan Kwai Fong is located in Central and it’s the place to go for a taste of Hong Kong’s nightlife. All the bars on the street are fairly small, but they have great music, colorful lights, and a great atmosphere. Many of the people who work in Central go there to enjoy some drinks and socialize with friends.

How to get there: Take MTR to Central Station and exit at Exit D2, then walk along D’Aguilar Street to Lan Kwai Fong.

4. Personal Picks

Although Hong Kong is a bustling city full of high rises, almost 70% of Hong Kong is covered by natural or forested areas. Below are my personal picks for those who enjoy nature and want to explore the less “city” side of Hong Kong!

9 – Dragon’s Back (龍脊)

Dragon’s Back is the last leg of the Hong Kong Trail. The path on Dragon’s Back is widely deemed as one of the best urban hikes in Hong Kong. It has a sightseeing platform that provides truly spectacular views of Hong Kong Island and its shoreline

How to get there: Take MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station and exit at Exit A3, then take bus no. 9 at the Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminus.

10 – Tai O (大澳)

With roots going back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644 A.D.), Tai O Fishing Village is full of history and heritage. Tai O is home to the Tanka, a stilt-house community. You can find boats navigating the channel between houses, cafes offering a relaxing afternoon, and restaurants offering fresh seafood. 

How to get there: Take MTR to Tung Chung Station and then take bus no. 11.

5. Cantonese Survival Phrases

Here are some of the most useful words and phrases for your travels in Hong Kong! 

1. Hello.

Chinese Character: 你好
Romanization: nei5 hou2

2. Thank you.

Chinese Character: 唔該 (when someone offers to help you)
Romanization: m4 goi1

OR

Chinese Character: 多謝 (when someone presents a gift)
Romanization: do1 ze6

3. Bye.

Chinese Character: 再見
Romanization: zoi3 gin3

4. Sorry.

Chinese Character: 對唔住 (to express apology and remorse)
Romanization: deoi3 m4 zyu6

OR

Chinese Character: 唔好意思 (to apologize for minor things or to grab someone’s attention)
Romanization: m4 ho2 ji3 si3

5. Good.

Chinese Character:
Romanization: hou2

6. I don’t understand.

Chinese Character: 我唔明
Romanization: ngo5 m4 ming4

7. Where is the washroom?

Chinese Character: 廁所喺邊呀?
Romanization: ci3 so2 hai2 bin1 aa3

8. How much is this?

Chinese Character: 幾多錢呀?
Romanization: gei2 do1 cin2 aa3

9. I want this.

Chinese Character: 我想要呢個
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 ni1 go3 

10. Help!

Chinese Character: 救命!
Romanization: gau3 ming6

Additional Notes:

You can call either 112 or 999 when you encounter an emergency. These are the most common emergency telephone numbers that can be dialed, free of charge, from most mobile telephones—even if they’re locked.

How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Would you like to learn a bit more Cantonese before traveling to Hong Kong? With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments which Hong Kong locations you want to visit the most, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

Hong Kong English: When Cantonese and English Become Friends

Did you know that English is quite popular in Hong Kong? In fact, many HongKongers love mixing English words into their Cantonese conversations. 
The history of Hong Kong English dates back to when Hong Kong was a British colony. Even after the 1997 Handover of Hong Kong from the U.K. to China, English remained one of the official languages alongside Cantonese. English is widely used in the government, business, and education sectors. Road signs, railway signs, government websites, and paper notes are all bilingual!

Hong Kong $10 Paper Money
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. What is Hong Kong English?
  2. Hong Kong English Examples
  3. Loanwords from English in Cantonese
  4. English Words Derived from Cantonese
  5. Bonus: Famous Names in Cantonese
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. What is Hong Kong English? 

Hong Kong has a long tradition of using English, and the language remained popular even after the Handover.

English

In Hong Kong, students are required to know English for both their primary and secondary education. In addition, the widespread influence of Western media has gotten HongKongers in the habit of using English in their day-to-day lives. ‘Hong Kong English’ simply refers to the way in which they use the English language. 

There are three manifestations of Hong Kong English:

  • Code-switching (using English words and Cantonese words in the same sentence)
  • Direct translations of Cantonese phrases into English
  • Cantonese pronunciation of English words

2. Hong Kong English Examples

Let’s look at the three manifestations of Hong Kong English, one by one.

Code-switching

Code-switching refers to using words or phrases from two different languages in the same exchange. This is extremely common in Hong Kong. In some cases, it’s actually odd to use a Cantonese word (instead of its English equivalent) in a Cantonese conversation!

Here are some examples:

Example 1

  • Chinese Characters: 我唔sure喎。
  • Romanization: ngo5 m4 sure wo3
  • Meaning: “I’m not sure.”

Example 2

  • Chinese Characters: 我去shopping。
  • Romanization: ngo5 heoi3 shopping
  • Meaning: “I’m gonna go shopping.”

Example 3

  • Chinese Characters: 我個friend cu唔cute啊?
  • Romanization: ngo5 go3 friend kiu1 m4 cute aa3
  • Meaning: “Is my friend cute?”

Example 4

  • Chinese Characters: 佢去canteen食飯。
  • Romanization: keoi5 heoi3 ken6-tin1 sik6 faan6
  • Meaning: “He/she is going to the canteen for lunch.”

Example 5

  • Chinese Characters: 幫我check一check啊。
  • Romanization: bong1 ngo2 check jat1 check aa3
  • Meaning: “Please help me search/check for it.”

Example 6

  • Chinese Characters: 去唔去happy hour?
  • Romanization: heoi3 m4 heoi3 happy hour 
  • Meaning: “Do you want to get a drink (during happy hour)?”

Direct translations

As Cantonese uses characters consisting of parts that depict physical objects or abstract ideas, Cantonese is a bit difficult to type. Although we have several input methods, many locals find it quicker and simpler to use English instead.

A Keyboard

As a result, a lot of people translate Cantonese words directly into English and type them out. Some of these literal translations became popular over time and are now used frequently. But be aware that because these phrases are rooted in Cantonese culture, the literal translations might not make sense to English speakers!

Here are some examples:

Example 1

  • Phrase: add oil
  • Chinese Equivalent: 加油
  • Romanization: gaa1 jau2
  • Meaning: an exclamatory phrase of encouragement

Example 2

  • Phrase: laugh die me
  • Chinese Equivalent: 笑死我
  • Romanization: siu3 sei2 ngo5
  • Meaning: “laughed my head off”

Example 3

  • Phrase: is but la
  • Chinese Equivalent: 是但啦
  • Romanization: si6 daan6 laa1
  • Meaning: “whatever”

Example 4

  • Phrase: dunno mud water they are
  • Chinese Equivalent: 唔知佢哋係乜水
  • Romanization: m4 zi1 keoi5 dei6 hai6 mat1 seoi2

Meaning: “don’t know who they are”

Example 5

  • Phrase: enough ginger
  • Chinese Equivalent: 夠薑
  • Romanization: gau3 goeng1
  • Meaning: “got the guts” / “brave enough”

Example 6

  • Phrase: Do you big me?
  • Chinese Equivalent: 你大我呀?
  • Romanization: nei5 daai6 ngo5 aa3

Meaning: “Are you fooling me?”

Cantonese pronunciation of English words

The pronunciation of Hong Kong English was originally based on British English, but American English has become more influential over the past few decades. 

Here are some special features of Hong Kong English pronunciation, deriving from its unique “British English, American English, and Cantonese” recipe:

Feature 1: /ð/ is pronounced as [d]

  • Example: “this” is pronounced as [dis]

Feature 2: /v/ is pronounced as [w]

  • Example: “vector” is pronounced as [wɛktə]

Feature 3: /v/ is pronounced as [f]

  • Example: “van” is pronounced as [fan]

Feature 4: /l/ is pronounced as [n]

  • Example: “violin” is pronounced as [vʌɪənɪn]

Feature 5: /n/ is pronounced as [l]

  • Example: “new” is pronounced as [ljuː]

Feature 6: /t/ is pronounced as [d]

  • Example: “fighting” is pronounced as [fʌɪdɪŋ]

Feature 7: /uː/ is pronounced as [ʉː]

  • Example: “school” is pronounced as [skʉː]

Feature 8: /iː/ is pronounced as [ɪ]

  • Example: “lead” is pronounced as [lɪd]

HongKongers tend to speak English in a flat manner, without much intonation—which is similar to how Cantonese is spoken. Be patient and attentive when speaking with natives in English!

3. Loanwords from English in Cantonese

A loanword is a word from one language that has been directly incorporated into another without translation. Because Hong Kong was a British colony for 155 years, Cantonese borrowed many words from English. We have listed thirty examples below.

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1檸檬ling4 mung1lemon
2曲奇kuk1 kei4cookie
3士多啤梨si6 do1 be1 lei2strawberry
4三文治saam1 man4 ji6sandwich
5多士do1 si2toast
6沙律saa1 leot2salad
7朱古力jyu1 gu1 lik1chocolate
8啫喱je1 lei2jelly
9芝士ji1 si2cheese
10奄列 am1 lit6omelette
11忌廉gei6 lim1cream
12布甸bou3 din1pudding
13安士on1 si2ounce
14mai1mic (microphone)
15保齡bou2 ling4bowling
16卡通kaa1 tung1cartoon
17爹哋de1 di4daddy
18媽咪ma1 mi4mummy
19貼士tip1 si2tips
20菲林fei1 lam2film
21梳化so1 faa2sofa
22T恤T seot1T-shirt
23茄士咩ke1 si6 me1cashmere
24波士bo1 si2boss
25肥佬fei4 lou2fail
26巴士baa1 si2bus
27的士dik1 si2taxi
28士多si6 do1store

4. English Words Derived from Cantonese

This language exchange goes both ways, and Hong Kong has contributed quite a few words to English as well. Most Cantonese words in the English language are food-related, as Hong Kong is undoubtedly a food paradise! We’ve listed ten examples below.

#Chinese CharactersRomanizationMeaning
1wok6wok
2點心dim2 sam1dim sum
3功夫gung1 fu1kung fu
4龍眼lung4 ngaan5longan
5茄汁ke2 jap1ketchup
6乾貝gon1 bui3conpoy
7雲呑wan4 tan1wonton
8白菜baak6 coi3bok-choy
9金橘gam1 gwat1kumquat
10夾心階層gaap3 sam1 gaai1 cang4sandwich class

5. Bonus: Famous Names in Cantonese

Wondering what English names look and sound like in Cantonese? We’ve listed six examples below. Can you guess who they are? (You can find the answers at the end of this section.)

What’s Your Name?

Example 1

  • Chinese Characters: 湯漢斯
  • Romanization: tong1 hon3 si1

Example 2

  • Chinese Characters: 奧蘭度布林
  • Romanization: ou3 laan4 dou6 bou3 lam4

Example 3

  • Chinese Characters: 珍妮花·羅倫斯
  • Romanization: zan1 nei4 faa1 · lo4 leon4 si1

Example 4

  • Chinese Characters: 琦·溫絲莉
  • Romanization: kei4 · wan1 si1 lei6

Example 5

  • Chinese Characters: 哈利波特
  • Romanization: haa1 lei6 bo1 dak6

Example 6

  • Chinese Characters: 卡米拉·卡貝優
  • Romanization: kaa1 mai5 laai1 · kaa1 bui3 jau1

Answers

  1. Tom Hanks
  2. Orlando Bloom
  3. Jennifer Lawrence
  4. Kate Winslet
  5. Harry Potter
  6. Camila Cabello

6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Do you find Hong Kong English interesting? Let us know in the comments if any of the words on our lists surprised you, or if you have any questions about what we discussed. We’d be glad to get in touch! 

Are you interested in learning more about Cantonese? 

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community where you can discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

Keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program
Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

A Brief Overview of Hong Kong Culture

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Hong Kong is truly an amazing place—it’s one of the world’s greatest cities and boasts a unique “East meets West” culture. Wondering why this crowded, tiny city (we’re 293 times smaller than Norway with 1.4 times the population) attracts millions of visitors every year? Or would you like to know a bit more about Hong Kong’s culture before settling here? In either case, you’ve come to the right place. In this lesson from CantoneseClass101, we’ll give you a practical overview of Cantonese culture, so read on!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Core Values and Beliefs
  2. Arts
  3. Food
  4. Holidays
  5. Bonus: Our Everyday Lives
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

1. Core Values and Beliefs

Common Belief

A key element in understanding the culture of Hong Kong is to become familiar with the values and beliefs of its people. In this section, we’ll talk about what Hong Kongers believe and how this affects their daily lives.

A- The Harmony of East Meets West

A long-time entrepot and once a colony of the British empire, Hong Kong has a diverse mix of cultures that has fascinated travelers from around the globe. You can find people of all races and religions in Hong Kong, and they’re all treated equally with respect. From Central Hong Kong to Chungking Mansion, you can see how people of different races interact, work together, and build friendships. We pride ourselves in our religious liberty, freedom of speech, and diversity. 

The interesting cultural dynamics behind Hong Kong’s mixed culture scene is rare and worth experiencing yourself through traveling, working, and living in Hong Kong. The robust and cosmopolitan nightlife has also seduced the hearts of many foreigners and expats. Read more at CNN Travel and Time Out Hong Kong to see what our vibrant city has to offer. 

B- Family-Oriented

Even though many locals have adopted Western ways of living, Chinese concepts like “family solidarity” and “family glory” are still prevalent. It’s also common for adults to live with their family or parents, partly due to the sky-rocketed property prices and rent, as well as the strong emphasis on family bonding in Hong Kong.

Many HongKongers live in nuclear families, usually with only one or two children, as most living spaces in Hong Kong are small. The traditional role of a mother is to take care of the family, though many HongKongers choose to hire a housemaid to carry out the domestic duties so that the mother can work full-time. 

In Cantonese family culture, age determines hierarchal seniority within a family. Everyone is expected to respect their elders in accordance with filial piety, a deeply rooted virtue in many Southeast Asian countries. HongKongers usually worship their ancestors at least twice a year, which stems from the belief that children are eternally indebted to their parents. This respect for seniority can also be observed through language; for example, the word “brother” can be further divided into the words “elder brother” and “younger brother.”

2. Arts

Hong Kong is well-known for its various art forms, especially in regards to its film, music, and television industries. Many of these Cantonese popular culture items are also popular around the globe. Let’s take a look!

A- Movie & Film

Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Stephen Chow… Even though Hong Kong is a really small city, it’s given birth to quite a few good movies and movie stars!

The movie industry in Hong Kong has been one of the most successful worldwide, especially during the second half of the twentieth century. It remains prominent in Hong Kong despite a severe slump starting in the mid-1990s. Local martial artists and stars, such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, are known globally. Many Hong Kong actors have transitioned to Hollywood over the years as well, including Chow Yun Fat and John Woo. Hong Kong cinema has also received international recognition through the work of director Wong Kar Wai, whose 2046 is one of the best films of the last ten years.

Our all-time favorite Cantonese movie: In the Mood for Love (2000). In the Mood for Love is arguably one of the best Hong Kong movies in centuries. Directed by the internationally renowned filmmaker Kar-Wai Wong, the movie paints the love story of two middle-aged Hong Kongers in the 1960s, starring the handsome Tony Leung Chiu-wai and the elegant Maggie Cheung Man-yuk. Both betrayed by their partners, the lonely next-door neighbors are eager to seek comfort in each other—but are hesitant to go further.

B- Music

Cantopop is a colloquialism for “Cantonese pop music” or “Hong Kong popular music.” This well-loved gem of Hong Kong’s pop culture is a strong representation of local Cantonese music. In addition to Cantopop, Hong Kongers also listen to Mandopop from Taiwan and China. Most artists are essentially multilingual these days and sing in both Cantonese and Mandarin.

One popular singer in recent years is Eason Chan Yik-Shun, a male singer from Hong Kong. He has been described as a blast of fresh air in the Hong Kong music scene, and his album U87 has been recommended by Time Magazine as one of the five best Asian albums worth buying.

C- Television

Hong Kong’s main broadcast television stations include RTHK, HKOpenTV, ViuTV, and TVB. The last one, launched in 1967, is currently the most popular television station in Hong Kong and is known for having been Hong Kong’s first commercial station that was free to air. Many Hong Kong households also use paid cable and satellite television. 

Soap operas, comedies, and variety shows produced in Hong Kong now reach mass audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Many international and pan-Asian broadcasters (including News Corporation’s STAR TV) are based in Hong Kong because of its position as a hub broadcaster. Hong Kong’s terrestrial commercial TV networks are also making inroads into mainland China.

Someone pointing a remote at a TV

Recommended Cantonese TV show: Best Selling Secrets (2007).

This famous 364-episode sitcom series revolves around complex office and family politics amongst the characters. Wong Ka Nam, a smart and confident lady, left her son and husband behind for the States. After her husband died in an airplane crash in search of her, their son, Luk Chit, was taken into her mother-in-law’s custody. 

Eighteen years have passed since then, and Ka Nam wants to see her son again. But she’s forbidden by her mother-in-law, as Ka Nam was blamed for the death of her husband. Amusingly, Chit and Ka Nam soon become friends and colleagues. 

The story evolves and touches on the rivalry, friendship, and romance within the office and household.


3. Food

Hong Kong is a food paradise! Not only does it have the highest density of restaurants in the world and all types of international cuisines, but there’s also a great variety of local dishes and mouth-watering delicacies worth trying. On top of the famous dim sum, other Cantonese foods and snacks like egg tart and fish balls are also too good to be missed.

Below are our top five picks for the best Cantonese dishes and snacks:

A- Dim Sum

The most famous Cantonese-style cuisine element has got to be dim sum!

Dimsum

 點心 (romanization: dim2 sam1)

In case you didn’t know, dim sum refers to bite-sized portions of food served in small bamboo baskets or on a small plate. You need to visit a Cantonese teahouse in order to try dim sum dishes. In Hong Kong, we call the action of going to a Cantonese teahouse for dim sum 飲茶” (jam2 caa4), which means “drink tea,” as Chinese tea is usually served with dim sum dishes.

B- Roasted Goose

Roasted Goose

燒鵝 (romanization: siu1 ngo2) – Photo by Simon Law, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Roasted goose is a type of siu mei (Cantonese-style Charcuterie). It has a crispy outer skin with moist meat inside. Coated with flavorful sauce, roasted goose has a unique barbecue flavor that will surely amaze you.

C- Clay Pot Rice

Clay Pot Rice

煲仔飯  (romanization: bou1 zai2 faan6)

Although this dish may look simple—steamed rice in a clay pot with toppings (and of course, a great sauce)—it’s totally worth a try, especially for the slightly burnt rice at the bottom of the clay pot. Common toppings for clay pot rice include pork, chicken, beef, and Chinese sausages.

D- Wonton Noodles

Wonton Noodles

雲吞麵  (romanization: wan4 tan1 min6) – Photo by Alpha, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Wontons are Chinese dumplings filled with shrimp or meat. Served with clear broth along with thin egg noodles, this common Hong Kong dish is a must-try. 

E- Egg Tarts

Egg Tarts

蛋撻  (romanization: daan6 taat1)

This delicious pastry is filled with sweet egg and best served hot. You can find egg tarts in both Cantonese teahouses and local bakeries.


4. Holidays

As a city where East meets West, we celebrate both Chinese and Western holidays. Here are our most celebrated holidays:

A- Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is the longest celebration on the Chinese calendar, lasting from the final day of the last month to the beginning of the Lantern Festival. During this holiday, it’s common to gather with family, eat rice cakes, and give children red packets filled with money.

B- Christmas

A Christmas Tree

Christmas is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in Hong Kong. It’s also the best time to do some shopping with all the discounts the shops are offering!

C- Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese calendar. Its origins relate to the suicide of Qu Yuan in 278 BCE. He was a poet and statesman of the Chu Kingdom during the Warring States period. Traditionally, we eat rice dumplings on this date.

D- Mid-Autumn Festival

A Mooncake

The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, during a full moon. It’s the time to get some traditional mooncakes or snowy mooncakes!

5. Bonus: Our Everyday Lives

Fancy to learn more about how a local HongKonger lives? We’ve selected three Hong Kong culture facts to give you a better picture of what life in Hong Kong is like! 

A- Tai Chi

Martial Arts

Tai Chi is considered an internal Chinese martial art. It’s practiced for self defense as well as its potential health benefits. If you were to walk the streets or parks of Hong Kong in the morning, you would see a lot of elderly people doing Tai Chi. 

B- Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine refers to various medical practices passed down from Ancient China, many of which are still popular today. Some examples include acupuncture, some types of massage, and dietary therapy.

C- Protest

Hong Kong’s protest culture is very much alive, and there are protests in Hong Kong almost every other week. Most of them are led by the Civil Human Rights Front, a Chinese organization which focuses on political issues in Hong Kong. 

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 the Best Place to Learn Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

One important element of the Cantonese culture is, of course, the Cantonese language! With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments how Cantonese culture compares to that in your country. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

Must-Try Cantonese Foods, Dishes, and Snacks!

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Hong Kong is a food paradise! Not only does it have the highest density of restaurants in the world, but there is also a great variety of local dishes and mouth-watering delicacies worth trying. On top of the famous dim sum (which we have an entire section on later), there are other Cantonese foods, such as egg tarts and fish balls, that are too good to be missed.

A Happy Face

There’s a saying in Cantonese that reveals how much we care about food:

  • 民以食為天 (man4 ji5 sik6 wai4 tin1) – “Food is god to people.” 

Indeed, food is one of the most important aspects of life: it brings you energy and joy, and you need it every single day. It’s also a great way to experience another culture and it makes for a lovely conversation starter. 

Can’t wait to learn more? Let’s get started!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. The Top 5 Must-Try Dishes
  2. The Top 8 Dim Sum Dishes
  3. At the Restaurant
  4. The Top 5 Hong Kong Snacks
  5. Bonus: The Top 5 “Bizarre” Foods
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. The Top 5 Must-Try Dishes

Visiting Hong Kong soon? Then you need to try these delectable Cantonese dishes!

1 – Char siu egg rice

Made famous by Stephen Chow’s movie The God of Cookery, char siu egg rice is now one of Hong Kong’s signature dishes. The combined texture and flavor of runny eggs, tender char siu (flavored barbecued pork), and soy sauce is a heavenly pleasure.

2 – Roasted goose

Roasted Goose

燒鵝 (siu1 ngo2) – Photo by Simon Law, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Roasted goose is a type of siu mei (Cantonese-style charcuterie). It has a crispy outer skin with moist meat inside. Coated with flavorful sauce, roasted goose has a unique barbecue flavor that will surely amaze you.

3 – Stir-fried beef with flat rice noodles

Stir-fried beef with flat rice noodles

乾炒牛河  (gon1 caau2 ngau4 ho2) – Photo by N509FZ, under CC BY-SA 4.0

Made with soy sauce, onions, bean sprouts, and rice noodles, this classic dish is a bit oily but super-delicious. A great dish to have after a day of hard work.

 4 – Clay pot rice

Clay Pot Rice

煲仔飯  (bou1 zai2 faan6)

Although this dish may look simple—steamed rice in a clay pot with toppings (and of course, a great sauce)—it’s totally worth a try, especially the slightly burnt rice at the bottom of the clay pot. Common toppings for clay pot rice include pork, chicken, beef, and Chinese sausages.

5 – Wonton noodles

Wonton Noodles

雲吞麵  (wan4 tan1 min6) – Photo by Alpha, under CC BY-SA 2.0

A staple of Cantonese cuisine, wontons are Chinese dumplings filled with shrimp or meat. Served with clear broth along with thin egg noodles, this is a must-try Hong Kong dish. 

2. The Top 8 Dim Sum Dishes

The most famous Cantonese-style cuisine has got to be dim sum, or 點心 (dim2 sam1)! 

In case you didn’t know, dim sum refers to bite-sized portions of food served in small bamboo baskets or on a small plate. You need to go to Cantonese tea houses for dim sum dishes. In Hong Kong, we call the action of going to a Cantonese tea house for dim sum 飲茶 (jam2 caa4), which means “drink tea.” This is because Chinese tea is usually served with dim sum dishes.

1 – Roasted pork buns

Roasted Pork Buns

叉燒包  (caa1 siu1 baau1) – Photo by Takeaway, under CC BY-SA 3.0

The roasted pork bun is one of the most popular dim sum dishes, consisting of fluffy bread with flavored barbecued pork (char siu) inside. Traditionally we steam the bun, but baked buns are getting more and more popular. 

2 – Steamed shrimp dumplings

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings

蝦餃 (haa1 gaau2) – Photo by Simon Law, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Steamed shrimp dumplings is another signature dim sum dish in Hong Kong. The wrapper of a good steamed shrimp dumpling must be thin yet strong enough to withstand being picked up with chopsticks. The shrimp inside should be fresh with a little juice.

3 – Rice noodle rolls

Rice Noodle Rolls

腸粉 (coeng2 fan2) – Photo by Ewan Monro, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rice noodle rolls consist of a sheet made of rice filled with things like beef, shrimp, or char siu inside. We eat it with soy sauce.

4 – Pork dumplings

Pork Dumplings

燒賣  (siu1 maai2) – Photo by Geoffreyrabbit, under CC BY-SA 4.0

Pork dumplings is one of the best dim sum dishes, featuring pork and mushroom wrapped in a thin yellow skin and topped with crab roe.

5 – Turnip cake

Made with turnips, mushrooms, and meat (usually Chinese sausages), turnip cakes are great steamed, pan-fried, or stir-fried with XO sauce.

6 – Spring rolls

Spring rolls are one of the best Cantonese cuisine items, and one you’re probably familiar with. A spring roll consists of vegetables and sometimes meat rolled inside a sheet of dough and deep-fried until crispy (but still juicy inside). Who wouldn’t want one?

7 – Steamed beef tripe

Steamed Beef Tripe

牛柏葉  (ngau4 paak3 jip6) – Photo by gigijin, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Steamed beef tripe is a common dim sum dish in Hong Kong, but it’s less well-known internationally compared to the ones above. It’s prepared by steaming the omasum of a cow in small slices of garlic and ginger. The unique appearance and texture of this dish wows many foreigners.

8 – Dumpling soup

Dumpling Soup

灌湯餃  (gun3 tong1 gaau2) – Photo by Kent Wang, under CC BY-SA 2.0

A prime example of Cantonese-style cuisine, this is simply a large dumpling filled with meat, shrimp, dried scallops, and mushrooms, served with broth. It’s a pricier dim sum dish, but the complex texture and flavor make it worth a try.

3. At the Restaurant

Now that you’re good and hungry for some exquisite Cantonese cuisine, it’s time to learn some phrases you can use at the restaurant!

  •  Phrase 1: 你有乜嘢好介紹呀? 
    • Romanization: nei5 jau5 mat1 je5 hou2 gaai3 siu6 aa3
    • Meaning: What do you recommend?
  •  Phrase 2: 我可唔可以睇下menu?
    • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 tai2 haa5 menu
    • Meaning: Can I see the menu? 
  •  Phrase 3: 我想要呢個,唔該。
    • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 jiu3 ni1 go3, m4 goi1
    • Meaning: I will have this one, please. 
  •  Phrase 4: 我可唔可以要杯水?
    • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 jiu3 bui1 seoi2
    • Meaning: Can I have a glass of water, please?
  •  Phrase 5: 呢道菜有啲咩? 
    • Romanization:  ni1 dou6 coi3 jau5 di1 me1 
    • Meaning: What does this dish contain?
  •  Phrase 6: 呢道菜有冇肉?
    • Romanization: ni1 dou6 coi3 jau5 mou5 juk6
    • Meaning: Does it contain meat? 

4. The Top 5 Hong Kong Snacks

Hong Kong street food is my personal favorite! You can easily find these snacks at food stalls on the streets of Hong Kong.

1 – Fish balls

Fish balls are a typical Hong Kong snack made of fish. They can be found in almost every food stall on the street and are sold with either spicy (curry) sauces or soy sauce.

2 – Egg tarts

Egg Tarts

蛋撻  (daan6 taat1)

This delicious pastry is filled with sweet egg and best served hot. You can find egg tarts in both Cantonese tea houses and local bakeries.

3 – Egg waffle

This snack goes by many names: egg waffles, eggettes, egglets… This sweet egg-based snack is available in several flavors, including chocolate and berry. Some people even eat it with ice cream!

4 – Pineapple bun

The combination of sugar, eggs, flour, and lard makes pineapple bun one of the most beloved foods in Hong Kong. There’s no pineapple, though—it’s named for its surface, which looks like a pineapple. Pineapple bun has a crispy skin and soft bread inside, and can be found in nearly every bakery in the city.

5 – Roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts

Roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts are great snacks. You can find street carts selling both items side by side during winter. They smell good and taste even better. Grabbing a bag of roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts during the freezing winter is just heartwarming. Most of these vendors sell salt-baked quail eggs, too.

5. Bonus: The Top 5 “Bizarre” Foods

To wrap up, let’s look at a few Cantonese food dishes that may surprise you!

1 – Steamed chicken feet

Steamed Chicken Feet

鳳爪  (fung6 zaau2) – Photo by Bryan, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many foreigners avoid this dish, shocked by the idea of eating chicken feet. But steamed chicken feet are actually quite delicious in black bean sauce. You can find this dish in Cantonese tea houses.

2 – Snake soup

Snake Soup

蛇羹 (se4 gang1) – Photo by Shankar S., under CC BY 2.0

Yes, snake soup is made with snake. But don’t worry: you won’t see anything that resembles a snake in the soup bowl. Snake soup is a delicacy in Hong Kong, famous for its medicinal benefits (from the perspective of Chinese medicine, it “warms up” your body) and its high nutritional value. 

3 – Beef entrails

A beef entrails dish is prepared by stewing good-quality beef with its entrails (such as the tripe and liver) for a couple of hours. You can spot it in most food stalls on the streets of Hong Kong.

 4 – Soy-braised cuttlefish or chicken’s kidney

It may look a little weird, but it’s surely delicious! The cuttlefish and chicken’s kidneys are boiled quickly before being dipped in a soy-based sauce. They’re spongy and chewy, and taste best with mustard.

5 – Stinky tofu

Although it doesn’t smell good, the mixture of creamy tofu and the crisp outer skin is a delight. If you can stand the smell, make sure you try some in Hong Kong! 

6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Amazed by Cantonese food and want to pick up some Cantonese before traveling to Hong Kong?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community where you can discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments which Cantonese food you most want to try. We look forward to hearing from you.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Let's Cook in Cantonese

Your Guide to Basic Cantonese Grammar

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Grammar is critical to every language—it is the needle that sews the bits and pieces of a language together. As a language learner, understanding the grammar will help you better express yourself and communicate with others in your target language.

Cantonese has its own (relatively simple!) grammar rules. It’s vital to learn basic Cantonese grammar if you want to master this interesting language in full. You need to know the right words and sentence structure to speak fluent Cantonese and effectively communicate with native speakers. 

Read on and learn about the most important Cantonese grammar rules!

    → Also keep in mind that we offer several other Cantonese grammar lessons on our website that go into much more detail. If you’re thirsty for more knowledge, make sure to check them out!
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. General Principle – Simple is Best!
  2. Basic Sentence Structure
  3. Final Particles
  4. Cantonese Tenses
  5. Cantonese Negation
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

1. General Principle – Simple is Best!

Eraser

Cantonese is straightforward! 

Cantonese grammar rules are much simpler than those of many other languages. For example, we do not have tenses (past, present, future, etc.) like English does, nor do we have grammatical gender like French does. We don’t have conjugations, honorifics, nor syllabary changes either.

Also, we like to get straight to the point when expressing ourselves. Take “Would you mind going to the store?” as an example:

  • A native Cantonese speaker would ask with: 你去士多? 
  • Romanization: nei5 heoi3 si6 do1
  • Literal translation of 你去士多: You go store?
  • Meaning: Would you mind going to the store?

2. Basic Sentence Structure

A Person Writing

Cantonese has the same basic sentence structure as English: subject (S), verb (V), and object (O).

To illustrate the SVO format, take the English sentence “I watch a movie,” as an example. We can see that the subject “I” is presented first. This is followed by the verb “watch.” Finally, the object “a movie” is positioned last. 

Now let’s compare the same sentence with the Cantonese translation: 我睇戲 (ngo5 tai2 hei3). If we break down the Cantonese sentence, we see that the subject 我 (ngo5), meaning “I,” comes first. Then comes the verb 睇 (tai2), meaning “watch.” And finally, we have the object 戲 (hei3), meaning “movie.”

Below is a summary of the SVO word order in Cantonese:

  • Chinese Characters: 我睇戲。
  • Romanization: ngo5 tai2 hei3
  • Meaning: I watch (a) movie.

Let’s see one more example sentence in the SVO format:

  • Chinese Characters: 我影相。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jing2 soeng2
  • Meaning: I take photos.

Do you want more information on this topic? Then see our article on The 10 Most Useful Cantonese Sentence Patterns and learn how to communicate like a native!

3. Final Particles

An Exclamation Mark

When looking at the essentials of Cantonese grammar, particles cannot be ignored. They play a huge role in the language!

Final particles are placed at the end of a sentence to indicate the mood or attitude of the speaker, and to make the speech more colloquial.

Final particles are most common in Cantonese and Mandarin, but they’re also present in Japanese and many other East Asian languages such as Thai.

Cantonese speakers love to add final particles to their sentences! Let’s take a look at the examples below:

Example particle 1: 嘅

Romanization: ge3
Function / Indication: Indicates humbleness or understanding; emphasis on raising a fact in a subtle way

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 唔係是必要你講嘅。
  • Romanization: m4 hai6 si6 bit1 jiu3 nei5 gong2 ge3
  • Meaning: You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so.

Example particle 2: 呀

Romanization: aa3
Function / Indication: Indicates enthusiasm and friendliness (usually in a softer tone), or a sarcastic retort 

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 係我呀。
  • Romanization: hai6 ngo5 aa3
  • Meaning: It’s me.

Example particle 3: 喇

Romanization: laa3
Function / Indication: Indicates an exclamation with an emphasis on the past; “already”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 佢返咗屋企喇。
  • Romanization: keoi5 faan2 zo2 uk1 kei2 laa3
  • Meaning: He already got back home.

Example particle 4: 呢

Romanization: ne1
Function / Indication: Used in questions to soften the tone when inquiring about facts

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 飛機機艙到底幾耐清潔一次呢?
  • Romanization: fei1 gei1 gei1 cong1 dou3 dai2 gei2 noi6 cing1 git3 jat1 ci3 ne1
  • Meaning: How often would the cabin of a plane be cleaned?

Example particle 5: 之嘛

Romanization: zi1 maa3
Function / Indication: “only”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 污糟咗之嘛。
  • Romanization: wu1 zou1 zo2 zi1 maa3
  • Meaning: It (only) got dirty.

Example particle 6: 咋

Romanization: zaa3
Function / Indication: Indicates disapproval; “just”

Example Sentence

  • Chinese Characters: 係因為未見過咋。
  • Romanization: hai6 jan1 wai6 mei6 gin3 gwo3 zaa3
  • Meaning: It’s (just) because this has never been seen.

4. Cantonese Tenses

A Clock

There are no such concepts as tenses or verb conjugation in Cantonese. Instead, we use additional words to indicate the time of an incident when necessary. 

It’s not mandatory to include these additional words as we can usually tell whether an event happened in the past, present, or future from the context. 

Let’s take a look at some common additional words:

Indicating “the past”:

  • Placed after the verb to indicate the past:
    • 咗 (zo2) – have done
    • 過 (gwo3) – tried
    • 完 (jyun4) – did
    • 曬 (saai3) – completed
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 啱啱 (aam1 aam1) – just now
    • 頭先 (tau4 sin1) – a moment ago
    • 前排 (cin4 paai2) – a while back
    • 幾個禮拜之前 (gei2 go3 lai5 baai3 zi1 cin4) – a few weeks ago
    • 上個月 (soeng6 go3 jyut6) – last month
    • 舊年 (gau6 nin2) – last year

Indicating “the present” / “present continuous”:

  • Placed before the verb to indicate the present:
    • 喺度 (hai2 dou6) – be / doing
  • Placed after the verb to indicate the present:
    • 緊 (gan2) – in progress
    • 住 (zyu3) – doing
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 而家 (ji4 gaa1) – now

Indicating “the future”:

  • Placed before the verb to indicate the future:
    • 會 (wui5) – will
  • Placed at the beginning of a sentence or right after the subject:
    • 到時 (dou3 si4) – then
    • 陣間 (zan6 gaan1) – later
    • 跟住 (gan1 zyu6) – and then
    • 之後 (zi1 hau6) – after
    • 聽日 (ting1 jat6) – tomorrow
    • 後日 (hau6 jat6) – the day after tomorrow
    • 下個禮拜 (haa6 go3 lai5 baai3) – next week
    • 下個月 (haa6 go3 jyut6) – next month
    • 出年 (ceot1 nin2) – next year

We’ll be introducing this topic in more detail soon—stay tuned!

5. Cantonese Negation

A Woman Hinting No

Let’s cover one more basic Cantonese grammar element: negation. 

Cantonese negation is quite simple, depending on the context (that is, whether you’re referring to the past, present, or future). There are four main ways to negate a sentence.

Negating the past

There are two patterns for negating the past in Cantonese:

Example
未 (mei6) + verb + 過 (gwo3)我未去過英國。
ngo5 mei6 heoi3 gwo3 jing1 gwok3
I have never been to the UK.
冇 (mou5) + verb我冇食嘢。
ngo5 mou5 sik6 je5
I didn’t eat anything.

Negating the present

Here is the pattern for negating the present in Cantonese:

Example
唔 (m4) + verb我唔識講普通話。
ngo5 m4 sik1 gong2 pou2 tung1 waa2
I don’t know how to speak Mandarin.

Negating the future

Finally, here is how to negate the future:

Example
唔會 (m4 wui5) + verb我唔會去。
ngo5 m4 wui5 heoi3
I am not going.

We’ll be discussing Cantonese negation soon. Stay tuned at CantoneseClass101.com!

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

Now that you’ve learned some basic Cantonese grammar rules (and see how simple they are!), are you ready to officially embark on your Cantonese learning journey?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community where you can discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

The 20+ Best Cantonese Quotes for Learners

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Quotes can be a great tool to help you stay motivated. They also offer cultural insight, provide universal words of wisdom, and tastefully season a pleasant conversation.

Do you want to put some Cantonese quotes in your pocket? We’ve compiled some of the greatest Cantonese quotes with English translations and equivalents, handpicked just for you!

Without further delay, here are the top twenty quotes in Cantonese.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Life
  2. Quotes About Love
  3. Quotes About Wisdom
  4. Quotes About Success
  5. Bonus: Quotes About Language Learning
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Quotes About Life

A Woman Gazing

What is life all about, and how should a person live? These are questions people have been trying to answer for a very long time. Here are some Cantonese quotes about life to give you some cultural perspective on the topic!  

1. 做人如果無夢想,同條鹹魚有咩分別呀?

Romanization: zou6 jan4 jyu4 gwo2 mou5 mung6 soeng2, tung4 tiu4 haam4 jyu2 jau5 me1 fan1 bit6 aa3
Literal Translation: “If we don’t have any dreams in life, what can distinguish us from a salted fish?”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” (John Barrymore)
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Shaolin Soccer, a movie directed by the renowned Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow. We might use this quote, for example, to encourage a friend to chase after his or her dream.
  • Additional notes: Shaolin Soccer is one of the most well-known movies in Hong Kong. Watch the trailer on YouTube!

2. 認真你就輸了

Romanization: jing6 zan1 nei5 zau6 syu1 liu5
Literal Translation: “You lose when you get serious.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” (Elbert Hubbard)
  • Elaboration: This quote is from the title of a book written by novelist Lin Su of Mainland China. It became popular in Hong Kong starting in 2009, and we use it to remind one another not to get too serious or care too much about results.
  • Additional notes: The famous Hong Kong singer Ava released a song, sung in Mandarin, featuring this quote as a title. Check it out!

3. 即使沒有別人給你理由,生命依然值得堅持。

Romanization: zik1 si2 mut6 jau5 bit6 jan4 kap1 nei5 lei5 jau4, sang1 ming6 ji1 jin4 zik6 dak1 gin1 ci4
Literal Translation: “Even if there is no reason to, life is still worth living.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning/ Equivalent quote: “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” (William James)
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the award-winning movie, A Simple Life. We use the quote to console a friend who is a bit down.
  • Additional notes: Deanie Ip, the leading actress of this movie, was awarded for her amazing performance with the Best Actress Award at the 68th Venice International Film Festival. Watch the trailer on YouTube!

4. 仍然自由自我,永遠高唱我歌,走遍千里。

Romanization: jing4 jin4 zi6 jau4 zi6 ngo5, wing5 jyun5 gou1 coeng3 ngo5 go1, zau2 pin3 cin1 lei5
Literal Translation: “Be free, sing your own song, walk your own life.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Be yourself.
  • Elaboration: These are some lyrics from the famous song Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies, sung by the Hong Kong rock band Beyond. We use this quote to encourage someone to be his or her true self.
  • Additional notes: Beyond is the most influential Cantopop band from Hong Kong, prominent in overseas Chinese communities and East Asian countries including Japan and Singapore. In fact, Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies is a must-know song for any HongKonger!

5. 對人誠懇,做事負責,多結善緣,自然多得人的幫助。淡泊明志,隨遇而安,不作非分之想, 心境安泰,必少許多失意之苦。

Romanization: deoi3 jan4 sing4 han2, zou6 si6 fu6 zaak3, do1 git3 sin6 jyun4, zi6 jin4 do1 dak1 jan4 dik1 bong1 zo6. daam6 bok6 ming4 zi3, ceoi4 jyu6 ji4 on1, bat1 zok3 fei1 fan6 zi1 soeng2, sam1 ging2 on1 taai3, bit1 siu2 heoi2 do1 sat1 ji3 zi1 fu2
Literal Translation: “Be sincere, responsible, and nice; you will naturally get help from others. Live a simple life, go with the flow, don’t overthink, be calm and present; you will suffer less when you fail.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is that a good life will follow naturally if you’re nice and kind, and if you go with the flow.
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Hong Kong’s business tycoon Li Ka-Shing, one of the richest men in the world. We can use this quote to motivate ourselves.
  • Additional notes: Li Ka-Shing is a magnificent businessman—he rose from humble beginnings, built and grew his own business when Hong Kong was still dominated by the Brits, and became Asia’s wealthiest man for many years.

6. 進退怎能隨人潮跌墮,重燃那漸冷卻的火,青春瘋過痛過先不會枉過。 

Romanization: zeon3 teoi3 zam2 nang4 ceoi4 jan4 ciu4 dit3 do6, cung4 jin4 naa5 zim6 laang5 koek3 dik1 fo2, cing1 ceon1 fung1 gwo3 tung3 gwo3 sin1 bat1 wui5 wong2 gwo3
Literal Translation: “We cannot just follow others. Let’s light the dimmed fire, for life is meant to be a roller-coaster ride.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: 
      Hope when the moment comes,
      You’ll say
      I, I did it all
      I, I did it all
      I owned every second that this world could give
      I saw so many places, the things that I did
      Yeah with every broken bone
      I swear I lived
      (I Lived, OneRepublic)
  • Elaboration: These are lyrics from the song Queen G by Hong Kong songwriter Gloria Tang. We can use this quote to encourage others to follow their heart.
  • Additional notes: Gloria Tang, also known as G.E.M., is a talented Hong Kong singer-songwriter. She was the only Asian artist featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016. Listen to one of her most popular songs, Light Years Away!

2. Quotes About Love

A Heart

Are you madly in love with someone? Or maybe you’re a hopeless romantic? Either way, we think you’ll love these Cantonese love quotes!

7. 人世間所有的相遇,都是久別重逢。

Romanization: jan4 sai3 gaan1 so2 jau5 dik1 soeng1 jyu6, dou1 si6 gau2 bit6 cung4 fung4 
Literal Translation: “All encounters in life are reunions after long times apart.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: This quote explains Yuanfen, a concept similar to Karma. The message behind it is that we should cherish those we love, but we must also accept separation from them should it occur.
  • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from The Grandmaster, a movie directed by the internationally renowned Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai. We use the quote to console a friend who is having relationship issues.
  • Additional notes: The Grandmaster is Wong’s most expensive production to date. You can watch the trailer of the movie on YouTube!

8. 人生就像一場舞會,教會你最初舞步的人卻未必能陪你走到散場。

Romanization: jan4 sang1 zau6 zoeng6 jat1 coeng4 mou5 wui2, gaau3 wui5 nei5 zeoi3 co1 mou5 bou6 dik1 jan4 koek3 mei6 bit1 nang4 pui4 nei5 zau2 dou3 saan3 coeng4 
Literal Translation: “Life is like a ball, the one who teaches you how to dance may not be able to accompany you until the end.”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Life is full of ups and downs, and your first love may not be your last.
  • Elaboration: This quote is from Eileen Chang, a famous Chinese-born American essayist, novelist, and screenwriter. We use this quote to offer condolence to a friend who has just broken up with their first love.
  • Additional notes: Chang is one of the best female Chinese writers of all time. Read her books to gain insight on the Chinese view of love and romance!

9. 不如我哋從頭嚟過。

Romanization: bat1 jyu4 ngo5 dei6 cung4 tau4 lei4 gwo3
Literal Translation: “How about we start over again?”

More about the quote – 

  • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is to never take anything for granted.
  • Elaboration: It’s from the movie Happy Together, directed by the famous filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai and featuring the handsome Leslie Cheung. In the movie, the main character lost the love of his life because he did not cherish him when he had the chance to. We may use this quote to try reconciling with an ex, for example.
  • 10. 成世人流流長,總會愛上幾個人渣。

    Romanization: seng4 sai3 jan4 lau4 lau4 coeng4, zung2 wui5 oi3 soeng5 gei2 go3 jan4 zaa1
    Literal Translation: “Life is long, no wonder we would fall in love with a few scoundrels in our lifetimes.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “We are all fools in love.” (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the movie Love in the Buff. We use this quote to console a friend who was betrayed by her lover.
    • Additional notes: You can learn more about love and relationships from a HongKonger’s perspective in the movie Love in the Buff. Check out its trailer!

    11. 世界上最遙遠的距離,不是生與死,而是我站在你面前,你卻不知道我愛你。

    Romanization: sai3 gaai3 soeng6 zeoi3 jiu4 jyun5 dik1 keoi5 lei4, bat1 si6 sang1 jyu5 sei2, ji4 si6 ngo5 zaam6 zoi6 nei5 min6 cin4, nei5 koek3 bat1 zi1 dou3 ngo5 oi3 nei5 
    Literal Translation: “The furthest distance in this world is not life and death. It is that I am standing in front of you, but you don’t know I love you.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “If you love someone, tell them. For hearts are often broken by words left unspoken.” (Stephanie Roogle)
    • Elaboration: This quote is from Hong Kong author Amy Cheung. We use this quote to encourage a friend to express his or her love.
    • Additional notes: Amy Cheung is one of Hong Kong’s most popular writers, and she’s very well-known for her books on love and relationships. She was one of China’s ten richest authors in 2013!

    12. 情場不是超級市場,請勿薄利多銷。

    Romanization: cing4 coeng4 bat1 si6 ciu1 kap1 si5 coeng4, cing2 mat6 bok6 lei6 do1 siu1
    Literal Translation: “The realm of love is not a supermarket; please don’t sell with small profit for quick turnover.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Love is priceless. / Quality over quantity.
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Cantopop lyricist Richard Lam. We use this quote to encourage one to cherish love.

    CantoneseClass101.com has a vocabulary list dedicated to love quotes. Check it out for more bittersweet words on romance! 


    3. Quotes About Wisdom

    Light Bulbs

    What does it mean to be wise, and how is wisdom attained? Here are some Cantonese quotes on the topic to inspire and enlighten you.

    13. 出嚟行,遲早要還 。

    Romanization: ceot1 lei4 haang4, ci4 zou2 jiu3 waan4
    Literal Translation: “This is expected.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: What goes around comes around.
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from the movie Infernal Affairs. We use the quote to let our friends know that we have been expecting the consequences of our actions.
    • Additional notes: Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, was actually a remake of Infernal Affairs!

    14. 是非只因強出口,煩惱只為強出頭 。

    Romanization: si6 fei1 zi2 jan1 koeng5 ceot1 hau2, faan4 nou5 zi2 wai6 koeng5 ceot1 tau4
    Literal Translation: “Gossip comes from the mouth, trouble comes from the head.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Both gossip and trouble are usually self-created.
    • Elaboration: This is from the famous novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer, written by Hong Kong Wuxia novelist Louis Cha. These words remind us to stay out of others’ business.
    • Additional notes: Louis Cha is Hong Kong’s most famous writer and his Wuxia novels are well-known in every Chinese community. He’s sold over 100 million copies of his works worldwide, excluding pirated copies. He even has an asteroid named after him!

    15. 就算一張廁紙、一條底褲,都有佢本身嘅用處 。

    Romanization: zau6 syun3 jat1 zoeng1 ci3 zi2, jat1 tiu4 dai2 fu3, dou1 jau5 keoi5 bun2 san1 ge3 jung6 cyu3 
    Literal Translation: “Even toilet paper and an undergarment have their own values.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Everyone is of value.
    • Elaboration: This quote is from Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow’s movie From Beijing with Love. We use the quote to promote the idea of self-worth.
    • Additional notes: This movie is a spoof of the James Bond films, and it contains lots of cultural and satirical elements. 

    16. 和諧唔係一百個人講同一番說話,和諧係一百個人有一百句唔同說話之餘,又互相尊重。 

    Romanization: wo4 haai4 m4 hai6 jat1 baak3 go3 jan4 gong2 tung4 jat1 faan1 syut3 waa6, wo4 haai4 hai6 jat1 baak3 go3 jan4 jau5 jat1 baak3 geoi3 m4 tung4 syut3 waa6 zi1 jyu4, jau6 wu6 soeng1 zyun1 zung6 
    Literal Translation: “Harmony is not 100 people saying the same thing; it is about 100 people saying different things while respecting each other.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” (Bryant H. McGill)
    • Elaboration: This quote is from the Cantonese drama When Heaven Burns. We use the quote to defend ourselves when someone forces his/her opinion on us. We can also use it to encourage someone to embrace new ideas.
    • Additional notes: When Heaven Burns is a unique Cantonese drama in many ways. It centers around the spirit of Rock ‘N’ Roll, humanity, religion, and politics. It gained a strong cult following instantly and was very popular among the younger generation.

    17. 寧可哭得理直氣壯,也不願意笑得鬼鬼祟祟。

    Romanization: ning4 ho2 huk1 dak1 lei5 zik6 hei3 zong3, jaa5 bat1 jyun6 ji3 siu3 dak1 gwai2 gwai2 seoi6 seoi6
    Literal Translation: “I’d rather cry boldly than laugh sneakily.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: The message behind this quote is that we should stand firm for justice.
    • Elaboration: It’s a famous quote from Hong Kong’s award-winning lyricist Albert Leung. We use it to encourage others to embrace and defend justice and righteousness.
    • Additional notes: Almost all HongKongers know at least a few songs written by Albert Leung. He has written over 3500 song lyrics!

    4. Quotes About Success

    A Man Climbing Up a Mountain

    Do you have big plans for the future or concerns about an upcoming project? Maybe one of these Cantonese quotes about success can motivate and encourage you. 

    18. 三個臭皮匠,勝過一個諸葛亮。

    Romanization: saam1 go3 cau3 pei4 zoeng6, sing3 gwo3 jat1 go3 zyu1 got3 loeng6
    Literal Translation: “Three cobblers with their wits combined exceed that of Zhuge Liang.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: Two heads are better than one.
    • Elaboration: Zhuge Liang was a very famous military strategist in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). His work is often compared to that of Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War. We use this quote to promote teamwork.
    • Additional notes: Zhuge Liang is the hero in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of Chinese literature’s Four Great Classical Novels. It’s a great historical novel written in the fourteenth century—highly recommended!

    19. 賺錢靠機遇,成功靠信譽。

    Romanization: zaan6 cin2 kaau3 gei1 jyu6, sing4 gung1 kaau3 seon3 jyu6
    Literal Translation: “Earning money depends on luck; success depends on trust.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: “Honesty is the first chapter of the book Wisdom.” (Thomas Jefferson)
    • Elaboration: This is a famous quote from Hong Kong’s business tycoon Li Ka-Shing, one of the richest men in the world. We can use this quote to emphasize the importance of trust and reputation in achieving ultimate success.
    • Additional notes: As mentioned before, Li Ka-Shing is a magnificent businessman. He’s also very generous in sharing his tips to success!

    20. 當你放下面子賺錢的時候,說明你已經懂事了。當你用錢賺回面子的時候,說明你已經成功了。

    Romanization: dong1 nei5 fong3 haa6 min6 zi2 zaan6 cin2 dik1 si4 hau6, syut3 ming4 nei5 ji5 ging1 dung2 si6 liu5. dong1 nei5 jung6 cin2 zaan6 wui4 min6 zi2 dik1 si4 hau6, syut3 ming4 nei5 ji5 ging1 sing4 gung1 liu5 
    Literal Translation: “When you earn money by letting go of your Face (ego), you have become mature. When you earn your Face (ego) with money, you succeed.”

    More about the quote – 

    • Meaning / Equivalent quote: When ego is lost, limitations are lost.
    • Elaboration: Yet another quote from Hong Kong’s most successful businessman, Li Ka-Shing. We can use this quote to remind someone to let go of their ego.
    • Additional notes: Face,” or in Chinese 面 (min2), is a unique concept in Chinese society. This concept of cultural etiquette in Hong Kong describes one’s status, dignity, and integrity. “Face” can also be thought of as the feeling of being respected and honored by others. 

    See our vocabulary list of success quotes for even more inspiring words! 

    5. Bonus: Quotes About Language Learning

    Fancy diving deeper into Cantonese after learning these interesting and insightful quotes? Then let us share a few language learning quotes with you, too!

    Bonus Quote 1 –

    Chinese Character: 新語言就係新生命。
    Romanization: san1 jyu5 jin4 zau6 hai6 san1 sang1 ming6
    Meaning: A new language is a new life.

    Bonus Quote 2 –

    Chinese Character: 我嘅語言界限就係我個世界嘅界限。
    Romanization: ngo5 ge3 jyu5 jin4 gaai3 haan6 zau6 hai6 ngo5 go3 sai3 gaai3 ge3 gaai3 haan6
    Meaning: The limits of my language are the limits of my world.

    Bonus Quote 3 –

    Chinese Character: 識多一個語言,就擁有多一個靈魂。
    Romanization: sik1 do1 jat1 go3 jyu5 jin4, zau6 jung2 jau5 do1 jat1 go3 ling4 wan4
    Meaning: To have another language is to possess a second soul.

    And of course, we have a list of more language learning quotes for you to study. 

    6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

    With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

    Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

    And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

    Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

    Before you go, let us know in the comments which of these quotes is your favorite, and why! We look forward to hearing from you.

    Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

Your Guide to Basic Cantonese for Business

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The world of work can be wildly different from one country to another, and when traveling somewhere—either permanently or as a visitor—you’ll have to quickly leave a good impression to make the best of your new business environment. Mastering the local language certainly helps. 

This is just as true for visitors to Hong Kong as it is for visitors to any other country. Even though English is one of the official languages, many local businesses and companies prefer candidates who can speak Cantonese. Knowing even basic Cantonese for business will definitely help you maintain good relationships with your colleagues and business partners!

Can’t wait to put some Cantonese business phrases in your pocket? Keep reading and let CantoneseClass101.com give you a hand! Here, you’ll find the phrases you need with examples to help you navigate Hong Kong’s business world.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Nailing a Job Interview
  2. Interacting with Coworkers
  3. Sounding Smart in a Meeting
  4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails
  5. Going on a Business Trip
  6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. Nailing a Job Interview

Job Interview

Fancy getting a job in Hong Kong? Learn the Cantonese business phrases below to nail your job interview, and don’t miss our article on How to Find a Job in Hong Kong!

Talking about your university

Chinese Character: 我喺_____畢業。
Romanization: ngo5 hai2 __________ bat1 jip6
Meaning: “I graduated from __________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我喺中⽂⼤學畢業。
  • Romanization: ngo5 hai2 zung1 man4 daai6 hok6 bat1 jip6
  • Meaning: “I graduated from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.”

Talking about your major

Chinese Character: 我主修_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zyu2 sau1 __________
Meaning: “I majored in __________.”

Example  

  • Chinese Character: 我主修數學。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zyu2 sau1 sou3 hok6
  • Meaning: “I majored in mathematics.”

Talking about your current job

Chinese Character: 直⾄現時為⽌,我係_____嘅_____。
Romanization: zik6 zi3 jin6 si4 wai4 zi2, ngo5 hai6 ______ ge3 ______
Meaning: “Until now, I have been working as ______ at ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 直⾄現時為⽌,我係ABC公司嘅會計。
  • Romanization: zik6 zi3 jin6 si4 wai4 zi2, ngo5 hai6 ABC gung1 si1 ge3 wui6 gai3
  • Meaning: “Until now, I have been working as an accountant at ABC Company.”

Talking about your work experience

Chinese Character: 我仲做過_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zung6 zou6 gwo3 _________
Meaning: “I also have experience as a(n)__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我仲做過項目經理。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung6 zou6 gwo3 hong6 muk6 ging1 lei5
  • Meaning: “I also have experience as a project manager.”

Talking about your desire to make the move

Chinese Character: 因為我想_____。
Romanization: jan1 wai6 ngo5 soeng2_____
Meaning: “Because I want to_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 因為我想增值⾃己。
  • Romanization: jan1 wai6 ngo5 soeng2 zang1 zik6 zi6 gei2
  • Meaning: “Because I want to progress (myself).”

Talking about why you want to work for the company

Chinese Character: 我鍾意_____,同埋想嘗試其他嘢。
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3_____, tung4 maai4 soeng2 soeng4 si3 kei4 taa1 je5.
Meaning: “I like_____, and I wanted to try something else.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我鍾意接受挑戰,同埋想嘗試其他嘢。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 zip3 sau6 tiu1 zin3, tung4 maai4 soeng2 soeng4 si3 kei4 taa1 je5
  • Meaning: “I like challenges, and I wanted to try something else.”

2. Interacting with Coworkers

A Group of People Chatting

Want to connect with your coworkers or business partners in Hong Kong? In this section, we’ll cover some Cantonese business language for communicating with your coworkers, both in the workplace and out! 

Starting a conversation when you haven’t talked in a while

Chinese Character: 近排點呀?
Romanization: gan6 paai4 dim2 aa3
Meaning: “How’s it going recently?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 早晨呀,Tim, 近排點呀? 
  • Romanization: zou2 san4 aa3, Tim, gan6 paai4 dim2 aa3
  • Meaning: “Good morning Tim, how’s it going recently?”

Inquiring about that person’s team at work

Chinese Character: 你條Team最近忙咩呀?
Romanization: nei5 tiu4 Team zeoi3 gan6 mong4 me1 aa3
Meaning: “What is your team busy with recently?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 好耐冇見,你條Team最近忙咩呀?
  • Romanization: hou2 noi6 mou5 gin3, nei5 tiu4 Team zeoi3 gan6 mong4 me1 aa3
  • Meaning: “It’s been a while since we last met. What is your team busy with recently?”

Telling them where you’re headed

Chinese Character: 我要去_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 heoi3  ______
Meaning: “I am going to  ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我要去會議室。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 heoi3 wui6 ji5 sat1
  • Meaning: “I am going to the meeting room.”

Telling them what you like

Chinese Character: 我鍾意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 _________
Meaning: “I like__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我鍾意藍色。
  • Romanization: ngo5 zung1 ji3 laam4 sik1
  • Meaning: “I like the color blue.”

Telling them what you don’t like

Chinese Character: 我唔鍾意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 m4 zung1 ji3_____
Meaning: “I don’t like_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我唔鍾意呢個project。
  • Romanization: ngo5 m4 zung1 ji3 ni1 go3 project
  • Meaning: “I don’t like this project.”

Letting your coworker know that you’re leaving

Chinese Character: 我走先喇。
Romanization: ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3
Meaning: “I have to go now.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我走先喇,聽日見!
  • Romanization: ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3, ting1 jat6 gin3
  • Meaning: “I have to go now, see you tomorrow!”
Business Phrases

3. Sounding Smart in a Meeting

Share your ideas and opinions with team members by using some practical Cantonese for business meetings!

Giving suggestions

Chinese Character: 你應該_____。
Romanization: nei5 jing1 goi1_____
Meaning: “You should_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 你應該接受挑戰。
  • Romanization: nei5 jing1 goi1 zip3 sau6 tiu1 zin3
  • Meaning: “You should accept the challenge.”

Commenting on a suggestion

Chinese Character: 你嘅建議_____。
Romanization: nei5 ge3 gin3 ji5_____
Meaning: “Your suggestion_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 你嘅建議不獲採納。
  • Romanization: nei5 ge3 gin3 ji5 bat1 wok6 coi2 naap6
  • Meaning: “Your suggestion was not accepted.”

Expressing your opinion

Chinese Character: 我認為_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jing6 wai4  ______
Meaning: “I think  ______.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我認為我哋要擴展服務供應。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jing6 wai4 ngo5 dei6 jiu3 kong3 zin2 fuk6 mou6 gung1 jing3
  • Meaning: “I think that we should broaden our offer.”

Showing your agreement

Chinese Character: 我同意_____。
Romanization: ngo5 tung4 ji3 _________
Meaning: “I agree (with) __________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我同意你嘅⽅案,我哋應該喺尖沙咀開分店。
  • Romanization: ngo5 tung4 ji3 nei5 ge3 fong1 on3, ngo5 dei6 jing1 goi1 hai2 zim1 saa1 zeoi2 hoi1 fan1 dim3
  • Meaning: “I agree with your proposal that we should open a branch in Tsim Sha Tsui.”

Showing your disagreement

Chinese Character: 我嘅諗法唔同。
Romanization: ngo5 ge3 lam2 faat3 m4 tung4
Meaning: “I have a different opinion.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我嘅諗法唔同,我哋要有新嘢畀個市場。
  • Romanization: ngo5 ge3 lam2 faat3 m4 tung4, ngo5 dei6 jiu3 jau5 san1 je5 bei2 go3 si5 coeng4
  • Meaning: “I would not agree with you. We have to bring something new to the market.”

Providing feedback on a suggestion

Chinese Character: 聽起嚟_____。
Romanization: teng1 hei2 lei4 _________
Meaning: “Sounds like _________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 聽起嚟有啲複雜。
  • Romanization: teng1 hei2 lei4 jau5 di1 fuk1 zaap6
  • Meaning: “This sounds a little bit complicated.”

4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails

A Lady Having a Phone Call at Work

Now, let’s go over some useful phrases to help you do business in Cantonese over the phone or through email.

Picking up the phone

Chinese Character: 聽電話
Romanization: teng1 din6 waa2
Meaning: “to pick up the phone”

Example 

  • Chinese Character:  ⼀聽到電話響,⽴即聽電話。
  • Romanization: jat1 teng1 dou2 din6 waa2 hoeng2, laap6 zik1 teng1 din6 waa2
  • Meaning: “Once you hear the telephone ring, please pick up the phone immediately.”

Introducing yourself over the phone

Chinese Character: 喂,我係_____。
Romanization: wai2, ngo5 hai6 _________
Meaning: “Hello, this is__________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 喂,我係日新公司嘅李家明。
  • Romanization: wai2, ngo5 hai6 jat6 san1 gung1 si1 ge3 lei5 gaa1 ming4
  • Meaning: “Hello, this is Sun New company’s Li Ka Ming.”

Letting the other person know what you’d like to discuss

Chinese Character: 我想傾下_____。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 king1 haa5_____
Meaning: “I want to discuss_____.”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我想傾吓啲細節。
  • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 king1 haa5 dik1 sai3 zit3
  • Meaning: “I want to discuss the details.”

Asking if there’s anything else

Chinese Character: 仲有冇其他嘢?
Romanization: zung6 jau5 mou5 kei4 taa1 je5
Meaning: “Anything else?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 仲有冇其他嘢我可以幫到你?
  • Romanization: zung6 jau5 mou5 kei4 taa1 je5 ngo5 ho2 ji5 bong1 dou2 nei5
  • Meaning: “Is there anything else I can do to help?”

Replying to an email

Chinese Character: 覆電郵
Romanization: fuk1 din6 jau4
Meaning: “to reply to an email”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我嘅主要工‎作係覆電郵。
  • Romanization: ngo5 ge3 zyu2 jiu3 gung1 zok3 hai6 fuk1 din6 jau4
  • Meaning: “My main task is to reply to emails.”

Greeting someone in an email

Chinese Character: _____你好:
Romanization: _____nei5 hou2
Meaning: “Hello _____,”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 陳先生你好:
  • Romanization: can4 sin1 saang1 nei5 hou2
  • Meaning: “Hello Mr. Chan,”

Thanking someone for his/her support

Chinese Character: 感謝你的支持。
Romanization: gam2 ze6 nei5 dik1 zi1 ci4
Meaning: “Thank you for your support.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我們非常感謝你的支持。
  • Romanization: ngo5 mun4 fei1 soeng4 gam2 ze6 nei5 dik1 zi1 ci4
  • Meaning: “We appreciate your support a lot.”

Asking for a meeting

Chinese Character: 我想約_____開會。
Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 joek3 _________ hoi1 wui2
Meaning: “I would like to set up a meeting for _________.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我想約星期⼀開會。
  • Romanization: ngo5 soeng2 joek3 sing1 kei4 jat1 hoi1 wui2
  • Meaning: “I would like to set up a meeting for Monday.”

5. Going on a Business Trip

Business Trip

If you’re traveling to Hong Kong for work, memorize these phrases to successfully navigate your business trip in Cantonese!

Checking in with a reservation

Chinese Character: 訂咗房。
Romanization: deng6 zo2 fong2
Meaning: “(I’ve) made a reservation.”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我姓張,已經訂咗房。
  • Romanization: ngo5 sing3 zoeng1, ji5 ging1 deng6 zo2 fong2
  • Meaning: “I have a reservation under Cheung.”

Asking about room vacancy

Chinese Character: 今晚有冇房?
Romanization: gam1 maan1 jau5 mou5 fong2
Meaning: “Do you have a vacant room for tonight?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 你好,今晚有冇房?
  • Romanization: nei5 hou2, gam1 maan1 jau5 mou5 fong2
  • Meaning: “Hello, do you have a vacant room for tonight?”

Asking for guidelines/permission

Chinese Character: 我可唔可以_____?
Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5_____
Meaning: “Can I_____?”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 我可唔可以用商務中心?
  • Romanization: ngo5 ho2 m4 ho2 ji5 jung6 soeng1 mou6 zung1 sam1
  • Meaning: “Can I use the business center?”

Checking out

Chinese Character: 退房
Romanization: teoi3 fong2
Meaning: “check out”

Example

  • Chinese Character: 唔該,我想退房。
  • Romanization: m4 goi1, ngo5 soeng2 teoi3 fong2
  • Meaning: “Excuse me, I would like to check out.”

Expressing your needs

Chinese Character: 我要_____。
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3_____
Meaning: “I need_____.”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 我要間非吸煙單⼈房。
  • Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 gaan1 fei1 kap1 jin1 daan1 jan4 fong2
  • Meaning: “I would like to have a non-smoking single room.”

Asking for directions

Chinese Character: _____ 喺邊度?
Romanization: _________ hai2 bin1 dou6
Meaning: “Where is _________?”

Example 

  • Chinese Character: 會議室喺邊度?
  • Romanization: wui6 ji5 sat1 hai2 bin1 dou6
  • Meaning: “Where is the meeting room?”

6. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Now that you’ve learned the basic business phrases, are you interested in picking up even more Cantonese? 

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there are any business phrases or situations we didn’t cover. We’ll do our best to help you out.

Happy learning, and good luck with your business endeavors!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Cantonese

Learn Cantonese: YouTube Channels You’ll Love Learning With

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Learning Cantonese can be a real headache—after all, with nine tones and 20k+ characters, Cantonese is one of the most difficult languages to master! But, with the right tools, you can certainly learn Cantonese a lot quicker and more effectively. 

Did you know that in your search for effective Cantonese lessons, YouTube can be an excellent resource? 

Just think of all those nights aimlessly scrolling through YouTube videos, watching one after another. Before you know it, it’s three in the morning and…what time was your alarm clock set for? 

What if you could combine YouTube and language learning to get the best of both worlds? Faster progress and endless entertainment!

As a learner myself, I strongly believe in the power of exposure for language acquisition, and how immersing yourself in Cantonese can help you more than any grammar lesson ever could. Absorbing a variety of media in Cantonese is the best way to effortlessly become more fluent.

In this article, I’ll present you with the best Cantonese YouTubers and channels for language learners in 2020. I’ve made sure to include channels in a variety of categories, from language learning to cooking and lifestyle vlogs. When coupled with the CantoneseClass101 YouTube channel (which I’ll talk more about later), these channels can give you everything you need to immerse yourself in Cantonese and make quick progress.

Enough talk. Here’s our list of the best Cantonese YouTube channels for learners!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. CarlosDouh
  2. 張媽媽廚房Mama Cheung
  3. hongkongmap
  4. MTR Hong Kong
  5. MIHK VLOG
  6. Leave Your Mark
  7. Alfred Chan
  8. 文子MtzCherry
  9. 果籽
  10. Learn Cantonese with CantoneseClass101.com
  11. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. CarlosDouh

Category: Language
Level: Beginner – Intermediate

CarlosDouh makes interesting videos about the Cantonese language and Hong Kong culture. He mainly teaches Cantonese slang—in a very engaging way. I couldn’t help but keep cracking up when browsing through his videos. I recommend this channel for beginners and intermediate level learners, as his videos are easy to follow and he normally introduces just one slang word per video. 

Check out his video on 公主病 (gung1 zyu2 beng6) to find out what this phrase means!

2. 張媽媽廚房Mama Cheung

Category: Lifestyle (cooking)
Level: Intermediate

On this delightful Cantonese cooking YouTube channel, Mama Cheung teaches you how to cook homestyle Hong Kong dishes, so you can learn how to cook and speak at the same time. Most of her videos have English subtitles, and she posts a new video every Thursday. Definitely stay tuned with the Mama Cheung channel if you’re a foodie like me! 

In the meantime, check out how to make Tomato Tofu Soup and get a taste of homestyle Cantonese soup.

3. hongkongmap

Category: Travel
Level: (Upper) Intermediate

This channel offers a virtual guided tour of Hong Kong by a local. Although most of the videos don’t have subtitles, it’s a wonderful way to learn more about the glamourous city from a more local perspective. If you’re interested in exploring the culture, lives of ordinary citizens, and unique places to visit, we highly recommend giving this channel a try. 

Check out one of the local tours and see if it suits you!

4. MTR Hong Kong

Category: Transport
Level: Intermediate

This is an informative channel about the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), the most used public transportation system in Hong Kong. With both Chinese and English subtitles, these videos are a good way to learn both the language and a bit more about one of the world’s best transport systems! Most of the videos are short enough to finish in one sitting—a great way to learn Cantonese if you only have a little bit of time. 

Watch this video to see what MTR has done in light of COVID-19.

5. MIHK VLOG

Category: Lifestyle / Video Blog
Level: (Upper) Intermediate

This channel features vlogs recorded by local teenagers. It’s a great platform for learning more about the youth culture in Hong Kong (and having a good laugh). Better yet, some of the videos have both Cantonese and English subtitles, something that will be very convenient for language learners. 

Watch their Hong Kong-style Pick-Up Line Challenge and see who these Cantonese YouTubers end up with!

6. Leave Your Mark

Category: Documentary
Level: Advanced

If you’re looking to watch something deep and serious, LeaveYourMark is right where you need to be. You can find in-depth interviews with some famous Hong Kongers, where they share their stories and beliefs. 

See what the famous songwriter 恭碩良 (gung1 sek6 loeng4) has to share!

7. Alfred Chan

Category: Lifestyle / Reviews
Level: Advanced

Do you need ideas on where to treat yourself in Hong Kong? This channel largely focuses on things like game and gadget reviews, as well as reviews for famous Hong Kong restaurants. Keep in mind that there are no subtitles, so the video could be a bit difficult for new Cantonese learners to understand. 

Check out this review on Felix, a restaurant in one of the most prestigious hotels in Hong Kong (the Peninsula Hotel), to see if you enjoy Alfred’s channel!

8. 文子MtzCherry

Category: Lifestyle / Vlog
Level: Beginner / Intermediate

This is a fun combination channel, hosted by a local teen giving out Cantonese tutorials and discussing life in Hong Kong. She also does a few vlog-style videos about her own life. Most of the videos have both Cantonese and English subtitles, which is perfect for language learners! Even if you’re just starting out, you’ll be able to enjoy her content and learn something new.

Watch her Cantonese lesson on hygiene to learn about how to stay clean and healthy in Hong Kong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuD8H2xSFJ8

9. 果籽

Category: Lifestyle
Level: Advanced

Here’s another channel with a variety of content. This local media channel covers a wide range of lifestyle topics: health, travel, food, personal stories, and more. There are Cantonese subtitles, but because the content is made for locals, they might speak a bit fast. Nonetheless, it’s a marvelous way to keep abreast of what’s going on in Hong Kong. 

Check out their video on the five most famous dogs in Hong Kong and learn their stories!

10. Learn Cantonese with CantoneseClass101.com

Category: Language
Level: All levels

If you’re not sure where to start your Cantonese learning journey, or want some help polishing your skills, visit the CantoneseClass101 YouTube channel. We have numerous videos for every skill level on a variety of topics: vocabulary, grammar, culture, and more! You can easily find just what you need by browsing through our categorized playlists. 

Want a sample of what to expect? Learn more about the Buddha’s holiday with CantoneseClass101.com!

11. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Want to step up your Cantonese after watching our YouTube videos?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, we’d love to hear what your favorite Cantonese YouTube channel is! Let us know in the comments.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

How to Say Goodbye in Cantonese

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Do you want to leave a dashing and lasting impression after meeting someone new? It’s time to work on your grand exit! Earlier on this blog, you learned the various ways to say hello. Now it’s time to study how to say goodbye in Cantonese when it’s time to part ways. 

A proper goodbye shows courtesy and respect, and helps you hone your relationships. This is especially true in Asian societies like Hong Kong, where we value politeness, good manners, and filial piety.

There are many ways to say goodbye depending on the situation. In this article, we’ll cover the most common ways to say goodbye in Cantonese so you can be ready for any situation.

What are you waiting for? Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. The Most Common Way to Say Goodbye
  2. Specific Ways to Say Goodbye
  3. Gestures for Saying Goodbye
  4. Bonus: More Examples!
  5. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

1. The Most Common Way to Say Goodbye

Most Common Goodbyes

The most common way to say goodbye in Cantonese is: 拜拜.

Literal Translation: bye bye
Meaning: bye
Romanization: baai1 baai3
Explanation: This is the most common phrase for saying “bye” when we part ways, and it can be used in a variety of situations.

Example Conversation

Elizabeth: 
今日傾得好開心,可惜我有嘢做要走先喇。
gam1 jat6 king1 dak1 hou2 hoi1 sam1, ho2 sik1 ngo5 jau5 je5 zou6 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3
“It’s great chatting with you; it’s a pity I need to head off now.”

Charlotte: 
拜拜。
baai1 baai3
“Bye.”

2. Specific Ways to Say Goodbye

A Man Saying Bye to His Family

There are many other ways to say bye in Cantonese apart from 拜拜 (baai1 baai3). We’ll cover nine more popular Cantonese goodbye expressions below so that you’ll be able to make a good exit in any scenario!

1 – Goodbye. (Formal)

Chinese Character: 再見
Literal Translation: again see
Meaning: goodbye
Romanization: zoi3 gin3

Example Conversation 

Fitzwilliam: 
我好攰,想休息下,再見。
ngo5 hou2 gui6, soeng2 jau1 sik1 haa5, zoi3 gin3
“I am tired and would like to take a rest. Goodbye.”

William: 
再見。
zoi3 gin3
“Goodbye.”

2 – See you later.

Chinese Character: 遲啲見
Literal Translation: later see
Meaning: See you later. 
Romanization: ci4 di1 gin3
Note: This phrase is normally used when you plan on seeing each other within the next week.

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
多謝你安排呢個舞會。
do1 ze6 nei5 on1 paai4 ni1 go3 mou5 wui2
“Thank you for organizing the Ball.”

Charles: 
遲啲見。
ci4 di1 gin3
“See you (later).”

3 – See you next time.

Chinese Character: 下次見
Literal Translation: next time see
Meaning: See you (the next time we meet).
Romanization: haa6 ci3 gin3

Example Conversation 

George: 
今日玩得好開心,下次見。
gam1 jat6 waan2 dak1 hou2 hoi1 sam1, haa6 ci3 gin3
“We had a great time today, see you.”

Lydia: 
下次見。
haa6 ci3 gin3
“See you.”

4 – See you (at a specific time).

Chinese Character: (specific time) 見
Literal Translation: (specific time) see
Meaning: See you (at a specific time).
Romanization: (specific time) gin3

Example Conversation 

Elizabeth: 
我好期待聽日終於可以見到你細妹。
ngo5 hou2 kei4 doi6 ting1 jat6 zung1 jyu1 ho2 ji5 gin3 dou2 nei5 sai3 mui2
“I look forward to finally getting to know your sister tomorrow.”

Fitzwilliam: 
咁聽日見。
gam2 ting1 jat6 gin3
“See you tomorrow, then.”

Goodbye Kiss

5 – Take care.

Chinese Character: 保重
Literal Translation: keep important
Meaning: Take care.
Romanization: bou2 zung6

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
我要去一去倫敦,可能要留三個月。
ngo5 jiu3 heoi3 jat1 heoi3 leon4 deon1, ho2 nang4 jiu3 lau4 saam1 go3 jyut6
“I need to go to London and probably have to stay there for three months.”

Elizabeth: 
保重。
bou2 zung6
“Take care.”

6 – I gotta run.

Chinese Character: 我要走先喇
Literal Translation: I need go first 
Meaning: I gotta run.
Romanization: ngo5 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3

Example Conversation 

Lydia: 
我要走先喇。
ngo5 jiu3 zau2 sin1 laa3
“I gotta run.”

Catherine: 
好啦,拜拜。
hou2 laa1, baai1 baai3
“Alright. Bye.”

7 – Have a great one.

Chinese Character: 一切順利
Literal Translation: All well and good.
Meaning: Have a great one. / Good luck.
Romanization: jat1 cai3 seon6 lei6

Example Conversation 

Fitzwilliam: 
我有嘢做要離開屋企一陣。
ngo5 jau5 je5 zou6 jiu3 lei4 hoi1 uk1 kei2 jat1 zan6
“I have some business and will be away from home for a while.”

Giorgiana: 
一切順利。
jat1 cai3 seon6 lei6
“Good luck.”

8 – Keep in touch.

Chinese Character: 保持聯絡
Literal Translation: Keep contact
Meaning: Keep in touch.
Romanization: bou2 ci4 lyun4 lok3

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
好可惜你哋要搬走。
hou2 ho2 sik1 nei5 dei6 jiu3 bun1 zau2
“It’s a pity that you guys are moving away.”

Caroline: 
保持聯絡。
bou2 ci4 lyun4 lok3
“Keep in touch.”

9 – Texting “Bye”

Character: 88
Meaning: “bye” for informal texting purposes (“8” in Cantonese sounds like “bye,” and it’s easy to type.)
Romanization: baat3 baat3

Example Conversation 

Jane: 
我約咗人唔傾喇。
ngo5 joek3 zo2 jan4 m4 king1 laa3
“I am meeting a friend, let’s chat later.”

Elizabeth: 
88
“Bye.”

Want more? We have a separate vocabulary list of how to say goodbye in Cantonese so you can learn useful phrases more easily! 

3. Gestures for Saying Goodbye

Now that you know a few key phrases, there’s one more question we’d like to answer: How do you say goodbye in Hong Kong? 

In some Western cultures, you might kiss, hug, or shake hands with someone when it’s time to part ways. But in Hong Kong, we generally just say the parting words, possibly followed by a gentle wave. Local Cantonese do not like touches in general—and kisses on the cheek are a big NO.

Handshake in Business Settings

If you’re in a business setting where you need to give a formal farewell, a firm handshake will do the job just fine.

4. Bonus: More Examples!

a group of colleagues

We have more examples for you! Read the following dialogue between two colleagues, 馬家輝 (maa5 gaa1 fai1) and 張麗珊 (zoeng1 lai6 saan1). They’re good friends in the office, and 馬家輝 is about to leave.

Example dialogue 

馬家輝: 
我走先喇!
ngo5 zau2 sin1 laa3
“I am leaving.”

張麗珊: 
點解咁早走嘅?
dim2 gaai2 gam3 zou2 zau2 ge2
“Why are you leaving so early?”

馬家輝: 
我已經做晒啲嘢,咪返屋企囉!你都唔好成日加班喇。
ngo5 ji5 ging1 zou6 saai3 di1 je5, mai6 faan2 uk1 kei2 lo1. nei5 dou1 m4 hou2 seng4 jat6 gaa1 baan1 laa3
“I have finished my work, so I am heading home. You shouldn’t work overtime so often.”

張麗珊: 
講就容易。
gong2 zau6 jung4 ji6
“It’s easier said than done.”

馬家輝: 
你仲有好多嘢要做?你需唔需要幫手?
nei5 zung6 jau5 hou2 do1 je5 jiu3 zou6? nei5 seoi1 m4 seoi1 jiu3 bong1 sau2?
“Do you still have a lot of work? Do you need help?”

張麗珊: 
唔緊要啦,我自己搞得掂。
m4 gan2 jiu3 laa1, ngo5 zi6 gei2 gaau2 dak1 dim6
“It’s alright, I can take care of it.”

馬家輝: 
咁好啦,聽日見。辛苦晒喇。
gam2 hou2 laa1, ting1 jat6 gin3. san1 fu2 saai3 laa3
“Alright then, see you tomorrow. Thanks for your hard work.”

張麗珊: 
拜拜。
baai1 baai3
“Bye.”

Explanatory notes on the key vocabulary 

VocabularyRomanizationMeaning
走先zau2 sin1to leave early; to leave now
點解dim2 gaai2why
zou2 early
屋企uk1 kei2home
成日seng4 jat6all of the time; always
加班gaa1 baan1to work overtime
容易jung4 ji6easy; simple
需要seoi1 jiu3 need
幫手bong1 sau2help
緊要gan2 jiu3matter
dim6satisfactory; in good order
聽日ting1 jat6tomorrow
gin3to see

We hope the conversation above helped you better understand how to say bye in Cantonese! If you would like to read and listen to more useful examples, do check out our lesson on Saying Goodbye When You Leave Your Job in Hong Kong.

5. How CantoneseClass101.com Can Help You Learn More Cantonese

Now that you’ve learned your basic “hellos” and “goodbyes,” do you fancy learning more Cantonese?

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, let us know how you say goodbye in your language! We look forward to hearing from you.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Cantonese

Is Cantonese Hard to Learn?

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You might have heard stories about how difficult it is to learn Cantonese. After all, Cantonese is a tonal language with its own writing system based on 3000 to 4000 Chinese characters!

Even though Cantonese sounds complicated, and is certainly different from European languages such as English and Italian, it’s not that hard to master when you’re using the right tools and approach. So is Cantonese hard to learn? As with learning any other language, you just need to put in time, effort, and of course, your passion!

In this article, we’ll cover the easiest and hardest parts of Cantonese, talk about why you should learn the language, and tell you how to learn it effectively!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Cantonese Table of Contents
  1. Cantonese in a Nutshell
  2. Learning Cantonese – The Easiest Part
  3. Learning Cantonese – The Hardest Part
  4. Why Cantonese?
  5. I Want to Learn Cantonese. Where Should I Start?
  6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

1. Cantonese in a Nutshell

Hong Kong’s Flag
  • Cantonese is spoken in Guangdong Province of China, as well as in Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia. 
  • Cantonese originated from the city of Guangzhou, which is the capital of Guangdong Province (traditionally known as Canton). 
  • Cantonese is referred to as 廣東話 (gwong2 dung1 wa2), literally meaning “Guangdong dialect,” or 粵語 (jyut6 jyu5), meaning Yue speech.”
  • There are a total of 73 million Cantonese-speakers all over the world.

2. Learning Cantonese – The Easiest Part

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Cantonese is straightforward!

For example, Cantonese grammar rules are simpler than those of many other languages. We don’t have tenses (past, future, past perfect, etc.) like English, nor do we have grammatical gender like French.

Also, we’re quite direct when expressing ourselves. Many Cantonese-learners, in an attempt to translate what is polite in their own language, actually make a mess of a sentence in Cantonese by adding a lot of unnecessary words. 

For example, take this sentence: “Would you mind going to the store for me please?”

  • A native Cantonese-speaker would ask: 你去士多? (nei5 heoi3 si6 do1)
  • Literal translation of 你去士多: “You go store?”

Many westerners find it strange to be so concise, since this would feel rude to say in English. But finding places to add superfluous words (such as “please” and other common English niceties) is unnecessary. Cantonese is direct!

3. Learning Cantonese – The Hardest Part

A Troubled Student

Pronunciation!

This is a major Cantonese language difficulty that many new learners face.

You probably know already that Cantonese doesn’t use an alphabetical writing system like English does. Instead, it uses characters that are composed of parts that depict physical objects or abstract ideas. Further, there are no concrete rules for how a character should be pronounced based on its appearance.

What makes Cantonese even more different from many European languages is that Cantonese is a tonal language. The meaning of a word can change depending on the pitch that’s used, even if the pronunciation is the same. People not familiar with this tonal system may be easily confused and think that certain tones sound identical! 

This problem of perception is perhaps why Cantonese is so hard to learn, especially considering that there are nine tones in Cantonese (compared to four tones in Mandarin).

If you’ve been learning Cantonese for any length of time, you may know by now that we use a romanization system called “Jyutping.” This system consists of two components: “pronunciation” followed by a “tone number, to notate the sound of a word. Be mindful that even if the “pronunciation” of two or more words is identical, the meaning of the words can be very different if they use different “tone numbers.”

For example:

Chinese CharacterRomanizationMeaning
baa1“bus”
baa2“handle”
baa6“cease”

As you can see, changing the pitch pattern can have a huge impact on a word’s meaning!

4. Why Cantonese?

Have you ever heard of Bruce Lee? Jackie Chan? Chow Yun-fat? Well, they all came from Hong Kong!

There are countless reasons why you should learn Cantonese.

By learning Cantonese, you’ll be providing yourself with new opportunities. As you strengthen your language skills and learn more about Cantonese culture, you’ll start to find that you’re able to better navigate life and take advantage of more opportunities in the workplace—and the world! Traveling to or doing business in Hong Kong will no longer be a far-away dream, but rather a very possible reality. You’ll even have the freedom to move to Hong Kong or Macao to earn a living, or better yet, build a career using your newfound skills—instead of being stuck in one place. 

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centers! It has the highest Financial Development Index score and it was ranked as the world’s most competitive economy, as well as the freest market economy, in the world. Being familiar with the Cantonese language, culture, and business environment can be key in settling important negotiations or making major deals.

A Couple Reading Maps

Will you be traveling for pleasure instead? Well, a solid understanding of Cantonese can make your experience in the local Hong Kong markets, rural areas, and restaurants so much smoother and a lot more fun! 

Another great benefit of learning Cantonese is that it will give you the opportunity to grow and look at the world with a more open mind. For instance, take a look at Cantonese pop culture! Many of the movies, dramas, and songs that are loved by people from all over the world were created in Hong Kong. Not everything gets translated, either. So unless you know Cantonese, you’re missing out on a lot of the amazing things that Cantonese pop culture has to offer.

Career growth, smooth travels, personal enlightenment…but that’s not all! Studies have shown that studying another language can improve memory and keep one’s brain in good condition. This, in turn, may prevent early onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, giving the language-learner up to five additional years of quality life to live! 

5. I Want to Learn Cantonese. Where Should I Start?

Question Marks

1. Learn the romanization.

Pronunciation might be hard, but with the romanization system, you’ll be able to learn the correct pronunciation of a word. This way, you don’t have to keep guessing and going over your vocabulary nonstop! 

Literacy in Cantonese requires the memorization of thousands of components and characters, which can be quite daunting for new Cantonese-learners. To start learning the sounds of Cantonese without the baggage of characters, Cantonese jyutping (also referred to as Cantonese romanization) comes in. This is essentially a way to help translate Cantonese pronunciation into English pronunciation.

2.  Focus on speaking.

Many Cantonese beginners find it tempting to learn both reading and writing at the same time. But we believe that it may be better to start learning how to speak before you get into reading and writing at all! This will keep you from using up all of your mental energy and getting burned out at the beginning of your studies, and provide a more solid base for your language studies.

As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of Cantonese characters, and they were created based on abstract ideas. It takes a long time to gradually memorize and become familiar with all of them. Instead, focus on speaking first. Master it. This will also give you a chance to practice speaking with locals! 

3. Practice makes perfect.

The truth is that the only way you’re going to get a standard accent, well-ordered sentences, and a better understanding of tones is by speaking. So just get out there and practice! Even if you make a mistake, Cantonese people can usually guess what you’re saying, especially when there’s context. And if they can’t understand, there’s always charades. 

And of course, you need a good teacher to guide you and provide the resources you need—and that’s where CantoneseClass101.com comes in!

6. Why is CantoneseClass101 Great for Learning Cantonese?

CantoneseClass101.com

With CantoneseClass101.com, you can have your daily dose of Cantonese whenever and wherever you want, through mobile apps, desktop software, and our website. We offer entertaining, engaging, and effective lessons on various aspects of the Cantonese language and culture.

Until now, we’ve delivered more than 750,000,000 lessons to thousands of happy students from all around the globe. You can learn Cantonese with over 1060 audio and video lessons delivered by our knowledgeable and energetic hosts, detailed PDF lesson notes, an abundance of vocabulary learning tools, spaced-repetition flashcards, and a lively community to discuss the lessons with fellow learners. What are you waiting for? Download our lessons, enjoy our audio and video files, and start learning now!

And keep in mind that if you prefer a one-on-one learning approach and want to further accelerate your Cantonese-learning, you can take advantage of our MyTeacher program

Know that your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Cantonese like a native! 

Before you go, we would love to hear your thoughts on learning Cantonese! What Cantonese difficulty do you face the most? Do you feel ready to start (or continue) learning, or do you still have questions or concerns?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Cantonese