It’s not a crime to be a tourist, and if you’re traveling to Beijing for just a week or so, there’s no denying the fact that you are one. However, if you’re planning a longer stay in Beijing and want to 入乡随俗 (do as the Romans do) and stop acting like such a newbie, then this list, inspired by a travel guide on how not to act in Tokyo, is for you:
1. It’s not always nihao
Contrary to popular belief, Chinese people don’t just say nihao as a greeting to friends and acquaintances. In the morning, they’d say 早 (morning) and around lunch and dinner time they will ask 吃了吗 (have you eaten)? In Beijing, it’s also common to ask where one is going with phrases such as “你上哪儿去?” (Nǐ shàng nǎ’er qù? To where are you going?) or “干嘛去？”（Gànma qù？What are you off to do?).
With people that are your elders or superiors, you’d say their name , title, and then 好. For example, 李老师好 (Li teacher hello).
2. Learn some erhua
Nowadays, there are so many 外地人 (nonlocals) in Beijing that you don’t need to go overboard with it, but it would still behoove you to learn some the basics of 儿话.
When a Chinese person bumps into you and says something like “excuse me”, “sorry”, or “thank you”, you can retort with the all purpose “没事儿!” (no problem). A quick way to ingratiate yourself with your Chinese friends is to call the guys 哥们儿 and the gals 姐们儿. And, yes, taxi drivers understand Sanlitunr (三里屯儿) better than Sanlitun (三里屯).