6 Cantonese Slangs Guaranteed to Impress a Local
(Attention non-Cantonese speaking HK residents)
There’s nothing more fascinating, more bewildering than seeing a foreigner articulate an emotion via local Cantonese slang.
And no. I don’t mean “Nei Ho Ma” and “Sik Tang Ng Sik Gong – that’s so last-decade. If you’re trying to impress a local with this, well prepare to receive a face looking something like this:
You need to dig deeper. Something to blow their minds. Make them feel like you’ve just deciphered their unfathomable enigma.
Learn these phrases and you’ll be guaranteed THIS reaction:
Let us begin:
1. “Wanna go to Muk Gei?”(麥記)
Definition: It’s just short for MacDonald’s
When to say it: You’re stomach’s growling but you don’t fancy spending $400 HKD on a salad and a drink. You turn to your local friend and say, “Hey! Feeling a bit hungry, wanna go to Muk Gei?”
2.“Don’t be such a Siu Hok Gai!” (小學雞or literally, Primary Chicken)
Definition: Immature, childish, foolish
When to say it: You’ve got that obnoxious friend (whom you still love dearly) doing something downright stupid. Give him a slap across the head and say, “Don’t be such a Siu Hok Gai!”
3. “He’s so Chisin!”(痴線)
Definition: Disbelief. Outrageous. Unbelievable.
When to say it: When you can’t believe something ridiculous just happened like the minibus driver not stopping for you so you go, “Chisin!”
*BONUS! How to say it: You’ll hear locals belting it out like “CHIIIIIIISIN” with an elongated “I” or it can be short and sweet with an extra oomph on the “chi” so it’s just CHIsin.
4. “I thought it was only Ma-Ma-Dei!”(麻麻哋)
Definition: So-so, average
When to say it: You just saw a movie (let’s say Avengers) and your colleagues asked if it was good. You respond, “Ehhh, it was only Ma Ma Dei!”
5. “He seems so HEA”
When describing a situation: chill, ordinary, unexciting
When to say it: Monday morning and you’re back at the office. Colleagues asked you how your weekend was (your weekend was full of drinking and partying but they don’t that about you) so you say, “The weekend was pretty HEA…stayed home and watched TV!” LIES.
When describing a person: Can imply lazy, or not taking something seriously
When to say it: Your boss has been doing absolutely nothing for the past few hours. You turn to your colleague with a not-amused look and say, “ugh…look at him, he’s so HEA.”
6.“Ding! It’s not working!” (頂)
Definition: (NO they’re not waving down the tram, tram is ‘dingding’) It’s simply another way of saying “CRAP!” or “SH*T” used to express one’s distress.
When to say it: Your Internet crashed. You’ve unplugged the lines you don’t know how many times. So you let out a cry of distress, and shout, “DING!”
So the next time you find yourself mingling with locals and are looking to give off a good first impression, please refrain from saying “Jo Sun”. Instead, try one of the above phrases.
Make sure you book a room at Ovolo Noho, mou dak ding ah!
Jessica Tryde, born in Australia, bred in Taiwan, is a creative English copywriter living in Hong Kong. Her job includes whipping out creative ideas and digital executions. During her spare time, you’ll find her weight lifting in the gym, training for a gladiatorial bloodbath in a Muay Thai class or attempting to perform a yoga pose. If not working out, you’ll find her mingling with the locals at the wet market or reading at a local Hong Kong café.