Where are you Going?

The Taiwanese language has no word or phrase that simply means “hello.” Traditional greetings include the questions “have you eaten?” and “where are you going?” The second of these is more often used out of doors..
The first time I was thus greeted I felt accosted. An elderly gentleman of my acquaintance who knew some English chanced upon me when I was going to the train station to reserve a ticket. Though his greeting to me was polite, my answer was both incomprehensible and rude.
He had merely said, “Where are you going?” I seethed internally, wanting to say, “none of your business”, but, because he was an elderly gentleman, I told him about the station, my planned trip, and the event to which I was going.
Time has passed. Now when asked where I’m headed I merely reply “out” or “back”. In 1977 I was living in a college student hostel off campus in Pingtung. The toilet facilities were an outhouse out back. I was on the way down the stairs when a student hailed me with the customary greeting. Remaining mum, I waved a wad of toilet paper. WAY too much information.

About the Author

David Alexander works at Tainan Theological College and Seminary where he is the adviser to international students

5 Responses to “ Where are you Going? ”

  1. there is a Chinese word for “hello” – you hear it when people answer their phone: “wei?” they just don’t use it as a greeting like we do.

  2. How long have you been in Taiwan? You don’t know the phrase “ni hao”?

  3. It’s a tricky situation, as there isn’t one phrase in Chinese that fits all of our uses in English. Take MJ’s point of saying Wei on the phone. You would never say that to someone in person. I also have found in my extensive time in Taiwan that I said Ni Hao way more than others did. Zao (good morning) is always used in the morning. Ni hao is like qing (please). I think it is infrequently used by native Chinese speakers. They just don’t see the need.

    David did preface his writing saying the Taiwanese language too. They do often say Chi bao le mei or Jia ba a bwei in Taiwanese. Also, one thing that bugged the hell out of me was the insistence on people in my neighborhood to always ask me where I was going. As if they cared and weren’t being gossips (although i know they loved to talk about the big nose)…

  4. Wei is like saying “Yeah?” Ni hao is hello.

  5. glad to have you back yuga!you msesid the pampanga 9/9! one memorable trip we had there! anton

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