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How do Chinese People Say Goodbye on the Phone?

In China there are many ways of saying goodbye- but also a variety of formalities and etiquette to follow so as not to offend on the phone


How do Chinese People Say Goodbye on the Phone?

In China there are many ways of saying goodbye- but also a variety of formalities and etiquette to follow so as not to offend on the phone


How do Chinese people say goodbye on the phone?

You might think it’s very simple and that there are many ways of signing off a phone call:  “拜拜” (báibái, bye-bye), “再见” (zàijiàn, goodbye),  “我挂了” (wǒ guàle, I have to hang up now) or “以后聊” (yǐhòu liáo, I’ll talk to you later).

There are also some formalities and etiquette to observe when hanging up:

-Don’t hang up the phone heavily if you using a landline

-Don’t hang up the phone first if you are younger than the person you’re speaking to

-Don’t hang up the phone first if you are a man and you’re speaking to a woman

Many Chinese people don’t know how to end conversations on the phone. A young boy, Kevin, vents (吐槽 tǔ cáo) his frustrations on Weibo: “Has anyone else had this experience? You have made a call to an older member of your family, such as your uncle or aunt. After the main conversation is over, deep down both of you are hoping to end the talk. However, in order to ensure you’re being polite, your relative might say 好 (good, okay),好,好,好,a multitude of times, and you in turn have to respond to this by saying oh, oh, oh, oh. If I hang up first, it seems that I am not being polite. If we keep on talking, it seems very meaningless. This drives me mad! (抓狂 zhuā kuáng) .

So, if you are a man, or part of the younger generation, and you want to remain polite and hang up the phone first, what can you do?

Netizens, below, often discuss the problem and muse over some methods to deal with these situations. They call them their “strategies” (攻略 gōnglüè).

If you want to hang up the phone first, it is best to have a good reason, instead of directly saying, “I want to hang up.” For example, “I’ve got a meeting in ten minutes”, “I ‘m going to have dinner with my friends”, “Sorry, my mobile phone is running out of power”,  “I have a call waiting, I have to answer it” or “Sorry, the signal is really bad, I will call you later (here the “later” means “a long time later” or maybe “never again”).

However, there is one instance where it is vitally important to get your sign off absolutely spot on. Let’s imagine a telephone conversation between a man and his girlfriend:












ACT 1. A man and his girlfriend on the phone, 11 o’clock pm.

Woman (tentatively): Are you trying to sleep?

Man: Mmm, I am exhausted after work today.

Woman: (pretending to be soft and have a caring voice): Okay, I will not bother you then. Go back to bed.

Man: Oh, okay. You too, off to bed early.

Clap, the man hangs up. Five minutes later, his phone rings again.

Man: Hello?

Woman: ………

Man: Who is it?

Woman: Were you trying to get rid of me?

Man: What? (He doesn’t understand what’s happening)

Woman: Did you get tired of me?

Man: Get tired of you? Why?

Woman: I only managed to get half my words out- you were yawning so much and you wanted to go to sleep and for me to leave you alone.

Man: But…. You let me go to sleep.

Woman: You said that you were going to sleep, what was I meant to say?

Man: Oh, well. If you wanted me to listen to you, why didn’t you say it? Why would you tell me to go to sleep, and then get angry?

Woman: Am I angry?

Man: Aren’t you angry? I can hear in your voice that you are angry now. Okay, okay. I promise that next time I will not do it, all right?

Woman: Do you mean it? I wish you would have come to this conclusion on your own. I hope you really like listening to me talking and don’t just feel obliged to listen because you are worried I might get angry.

The result is that the man took more than half an hour to pacify his girlfriend, as he felt down about the argument and was worried that maybe his girlfriend might have a fight with him again tomorrow. The above act was considered a failure as a “goodbye” on the phone between the man and his girlfriend.

I will show you another dialogue between a man and his girlfriend.












ACT 2  A man and his girlfriend on the phone, 11 o’clock pm.

Woman: (tentatively asking): Are you trying to get to sleep?

Man: (with a tired voice, but showing his wish to continue the  conversation): ah …… a little tired after work, but you have not finished talking, so go on, I’m listening.

Woman: (she has been pacified by the above words): Oh, but you’re tired, you must go to sleep now.

(Reminder: Don’t take her words literally, you’re just putting out a feeler to see how she would respond to it. If you hang up the phone, you are falling right into the trap!)

Men: I am a little tired as I’m up to my eyes in paper work, I can call you early tomorrow and we can talk longer, okay?

(Reminder: To explain the reason why you are so tired is a good method, and she also gets your promise of tomorrow’s conversation.)

 Woman: Oh, all right. Go to bed at once, you must be tired.

(Reminder: it’s not time to say goodbye, if you hang up now, all your former words will go down the drain.)

Men: When are you going to sleep?

Woman: I don’t know, I’ll stick around for a while.

Man: Sure. But don’t stay up too late, it’s not good for your health- I’ll worry about you!

Woman (with a sajiao tone ): Okay~~.

Man: I love you.

(Reminder: Even if you’re close to dropping off, you’d better hold on and say the three magical words to your girlfriend.)

Woman: I love you too.

Man: En. (嗯.)Bye.

This woman hangs up the phone first.

The perfect ending: 11:15 pm and the man can go to bed to his dream of his girlfriend!

So now you might just be able to appreciate how important those signing off words are.

Images courtesy of Jike.com.