Of all the places in China, Hong Kong holds a special place in the hearts of many international travelers. Throughout the 21st Century, this administrative region in China has become a center for international trade.
One of the many reasons why speaking in Cantonese is not mandatory in Hong Kong is because of its history as a British colony. The locals are used to speaking the international lingua franca (English). However, one can always please the natives through the courteous effort of bridging the slim cultural gap with a few practical and important Chinese phrases.
Lei ho. Saying 'hello' is a basic social protocol in Hong Kong. Greeting old strangers in their language brings a smile to their gentle wrinkled faces.
Mm goi. Translated as a casual 'thank you' in Cantonese, 'mm goi' seems to be the most widely used courtesy among the important Chinese phrases in Hong Kong.
Doh jeh. Translated as a formal 'thank you' in Cantonese, this phrase is more appropriately used to convey sincere gratitude instead of a mere lip service.
Mai daan. It's a bit challenging to ask for the bill in busy restaurants and bars. But this magical phrase that translates as 'check, please!' in Cantonese will at least fractionally hasten waiters.
Yum cha. The Chinese in Hong Kong are big on courtesy. It is customary to invite local friends to 'drink tea' while in a traditional restaurant.
Sik jor fahn mei ah? Speaking of courtesy, never forget to ask your friend, 'have you eaten yet?' More than asking about one's dietary welfare, this phrase is used as an everyday-greeting.
Chi sin. Don't break some rules in Hong Kong. They are quick to call you 'crazy' behind your back.
Yau lok. Want to tell the Chinese cab driver to drop you off in a jiffy, just say 'stop, please' in their language.
Hou ging! Hong Kong locals love it when foreigners notice their skill. It's even more impressive when you translate 'outstanding!' in Cantonese.
Tseng ah! One could not help but express delight when good things happen. See an attractive local smiling at you? 'Sweet!' Found a thick roll of banknotes on the sidewalk? 'Nice!'