No means yes

Posted by Jack on September 05, 2008

In Chinese culture, it is very common to offer food to your visitors. But the visitor will always say "no", even when he's hungry. Why? Often you'll get food anyway if you don't say it loud enough.

At dinner people will ask you if you want more beer. You say no, but they will poor it in anyway. Why??

First, some people don't really want to offer you food. They sometimes offer it as a sign of politeness.

So why will everybody say "no"? It is also politeness! To say "yes" is very rude. That's why you'll get your beer anyway. The correct way to stop them pouring in is to not to drink from your glass, even when it's full…

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No Comments to No means yes

  • Very interesting. I remember that in Indonesia, it's on the contrary; very unusual to say 'no'. You ask somebody for directions, "Do you know where X is?", and they'll go "Yes!" So you're like, OK, where is it? And they go "I don't know!"… 🙂 It gets very annoying after a while. You learn to ask questions in a different way (never ask yes/no questions, because you can guess their answer…)

  • Another thing about Yes and No: When you ask a denying question in East and South East Asia, they answer yes where we would say no. An example "You didn't bring your books?" If you indeed didn't bring your books, Westerners would say 'No'. As in 'No, I didn't bring my books'. Asians would say 'Yes', as in 'Yes, you are right, I indeed didn't bring my books'.

    I'm not sure about all Asian languages, but in Thai and Chinese, this makes sense, because they don't have a word for 'Yes' and 'No'. When you are asked 'Did you bring your books?' the literally translated answer would be 'Bring' or 'Not bring', or alternatively 'that's right' or 'that's not right'.

    So I'm guessing it's a translation thing.

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