10 Survival Phrases For Your Trip to Taiwan

Taiwan is a country of fascinating nuances. You can enjoy the bright lights and busy night markets of Taipei, or chill out on the beaches of Kaohsiung. You can immerse yourself in the culture of Kinmen, or embrace nature in one of Taiwan’s many national parks. There’s a little something here for everyone, and you’ll leave this island nation wanting to come back for more!

It’s important to remember though that while Taiwan does attract a lot of tourists, its primary language is still Mandarin and English speakers can be hard to come by. Be sure to brush up on your Mandarin before you head overseas, and check out our ten survival phrases so that, no matter where your wanderlust carries you, you’ll be more than prepared for the adventures to come!

1. Nĭ hăo/ Nĭn hăo

Pronunciation: Nee how / Neen how

The common way to greet people in Taiwan is by either saying Nĭ hăo or Nĭn hăo and these phrases translate as “Hello.” While the former is a more relaxed manner of greeting that you’d use with friends, the latter is a formal way of saying ‘Hello’ which you should use when greeting those senior to you or when speaking with your manager or boss.

2. Xièxie

Pronunciation: hsieh hsieh

This simple phrase means nothing more than “Thanks.” If you want to be extra polite, you can say Xièxie nĭ/nĭn as a more formal ‘Thank you.’ Remember, Taiwanese culture is generally very polite so this is one phrase you’ll not only want to memorise, but use frequently too!

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3. Bú kèqì

Pronunciation: Boo khe chee

When you thank someone for something, this is the phrase you will hear in return. Yep, you’re right! it can mean “You’re welcome,” “Don’t mention it,” or “My pleasure.” This is another great one to add to your Mandarin vocabulary arsenal.

4. Bù hǎo yì si

Pronunciation: Boo how eeh si

If you’re caught on the local trains or buses during rush hour in Taipei, you will need to keep this phrase on standby for when you’re pushing your way off. It translates as ‘pardon’ or ‘excuse me’ and can also be used to get someone’s attention if you need to ask them something.

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5. Duō-shǎo-qián

Pronunciation: Doo oh show chee an

When you visit Taiwan’s night markets you will notice right away that not all the cool goodies you find there have price tags. Before you break out your bartering skills you’ll want to ask Duō shǎo qián which means “How much?” If you don’t know all your numbers in Mandarin yet, don’t worry, vendors will type out the amounts on their calculators so you can see.

6. Bú yòng

Pronunciation: Boo yong

While Bú yòng literally translates as “No need” it is really just a nice way to say “no” or let someone know you don’t want something. Remember, it’s important to be polite, so even when you’re being nagged by street vendors trying to sell you things you don’t want, the best term to use is Bú yòng.

7. Tīng bù dǒng

Pronunciation: Teeng boo dong

The three most important words you’ll ever learn are probably Tīng bù dǒng. This phrase means “I don’t understand” and as a foreigner navigating the strange and exciting waters of Taiwanese culture, you’ll definitely want to have this one down pat.

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8. Méi yŏu wèntí / Méi wèntí

Pronunciation: May yo when tee / May when tee

These two phrases mean the same thing: “No problem.” These words can be used in many situations. A common one is to excuse someone after they apologise for, say, bumping into you. Another situation where it may come in handy is if you want to express confidence or show you’ve got something under control. It’s kind of like saying “No problem, I can handle it.”

9. Zài nǎli

Pronunciation: Zeye nah lee

Getting lost a few times during your trip to Taiwan is to be expected, it is one of the risks of being a traveller, right? As long as you have this phrase on hand, you can stop anyone on the street and get directions! Most Taiwanese people are very friendly, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone who can point you the right way.

10. Cèsuŏ

Pronunciation: Tse sue-oh

Last but not least, we have the word for “bathroom.” But don’t just go around saying Cèsuŏ to people when you’re trying to find the restroom, use all your phrase prowess and combine it with another one you learned above to say: Cèsuŏ  zài nǎli? (Where is the bathroom?).

Be sure to spend quite a lot of time practising these words and phrases out loud on your own because tones in Mandarin can be rather tricky. If you use the wrong tone on a word you could end up saying something completely different! Practise, practise, practise and you’ll be ready for your big trip to Taiwan in no time at all.

And if you’d like to get the help of an expert, explore our online Taiwanese courses with native-speaking teachers! Our tutors will be able to give you all the insider tips and tricks so you can make the most out of your trip to Taiwan.

What are some of your go-to survival phrases for when you visit Taiwan? Share your suggestions with us!