Your Chinese New Year greetings cheat sheet

Commit these phrases to memory and watch the ang baos roll in during Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year visiting

So you're visiting a friend's/colleague's/relative's house this Chinese New Year and you just can't find the right words to say. Here are eight essentials you should always have in your back pocket – nestled next to all those red packets. And if all else fails, make a beeline to the snack table and feast because that's what the Year of the Pig is all about.

RECOMMENDED The ultimate guide to Chinese New Year in Singapore and a beginner's guide to Chinese New Year traditions and etiquette

Happy Chinese New Year 2019 year of the pig paper cut style. Chinese characters mean Happy New Year, wealthy, Zodiac sign for greetings card, flyers, invitation, posters, brochure, banners, calendar.
Photo by: Minniehomepc /

新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)

SOUNDS LIKE sing neean kwai lur.

WHAT IT MEANS Happy new year!

WHEN TO SAY IT When you first walk through the door and everyone's too busy playing mahjong to realise how basic you're being anyway.

Gong xi fa cai

恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái)

SOUNDS LIKE kong xee far chai.

WHAT IT MEANS Wishing you wealth.

WHEN TO SAY IT When you want to suck up to your boss even though you already know he's making five times your salary.

Chinese New Year visiting

大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì)

SOUNDS LIKE da jee da lee.

WHAT IT MEANS Good luck and may you profit.

WHEN TO SAY IT When you go all in during poker and want to make your opponent fold.

nian nian you yu

年年有馀 (nián nián yǒu yú)

SOUNDS LIKE neean neean yo yuwee.

WHAT IT MEANS May you have an abundant year. 

WHEN TO SAY IT When you tuck into a glorious plate of steamed marble goby or pomfret served with salted vegetables. Who wouldn't want to have fish (鱼/yú) every year?

shen yi xin long

生意兴隆 (shēng yì xīng lóng)

SOUNDS LIKE shun yee sing llong.

WHAT IT MEANS May your business flourish.

WHEN TO SAY IT When you're talking to a tech bro whose side hustles include bitcoin mining or whatever's cool in crypto these days.

study improve

学业进步 (xué yè jìn bù)

SOUNDS LIKE shyue yeah jing boo.

WHAT IT MEANS May your grades improve.

WHEN TO SAY IT When the precocious 11-year-old starts schooling you on how to #staywoke.

Chinese new year

心想事成 (xīn xiǎng shì chéng)

SOUNDS LIKE sing hsiang shi chng.

WHAT IT MEANS May your heart's wishes come true.

WHEN TO SAY IT When you spy a hot girl at the party looking a little forlorn because she didn't have a date on V-day.

fireworks, singapore, chinese new year

四季平安过旺年 (sì jì píng ān guò wàng nián)

SOUNDS LIKE shi jee ping ahn kuoh wahng neean.

WHAT IT MEANS Wishing you a whole year of peace.

WHEN TO USE IT For when you really want to show off – upgrade from your typical four-character idioms to this seven-character one. Everyone will be saying 'wah your Chinese so good ah?' in no time.

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