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How to Haggle in Chinese When Shopping

How to Haggle in Chinese When Shopping

Haggling in market - How to Haggle in Chinese when Shopping

A great way to help you to improve your vocabulary while you learn Chinese is through the age-old art of haggling when shopping. Haggling in street markets and smaller shops is part of everyday life. The shopkeeper or market stall holder will expect you to haggle. Indeed, you’ll disappoint many of them if you don’t! Some students may feel shy or embarrassed about haggling to get the best price. Don’t! It’s a natural way of life. So, over the course of this article, we’ll give you a few tips as to how to haggle in Chinese.

As a visitor to China, you’ll be targeted straightaway as someone who will more than likely be prepared to pay over the odds for goods. So be warned!  It’s worth spending some time browsing to get an idea of prices before you make a purchase. And it’ll be a huge advantage for Chinese language students to have a few key sentences up their sleeve when they begin to haggle. Remember, don’t get angry, have some fun and respect that the shopkeepers and market-stall holders are there to make a living too!

Where to Haggle in China

Firstly, you’ll need to understand when and where it’s appropriate to haggle in China. Street vendors, smaller shops and open-air markets will expect you to haggle. Supermarkets, large stores and restaurants, where fixed prices apply, will not.   

So here goes:

“How much does this one cost?”
Zhège duōshǎo qián?

How much does this cost? - How to Haggle in Chinese when Shopping

Without doubt, the best way to start any negotiation is by establishing how much the seller wants for the item you’re hoping to purchase.

Remember, this is just the starting point of your negotiation. It’s practically a given that the seller will be willing to bargain with you. And you’ve already established an advantage by talking to him/her in Chinese. Yes, learning how to haggle in Chinese is really going to help you learn Chinese in a real-world environment.

“It’s too expensive!”
Tài guìle!

It's too expensive! - How to Haggle in Chinese when Shopping

Don’t worry, you won’t cause offence. The seller will be expecting you to say this. And act as if you’re mortally wounded, but do so with a smile on your face. That way, you’ll establish a nice rapport and your haggling will be well underway.

The next phase of your performance, for that’s exactly what haggling in Chinese is all about, is to offer a very low price. Much lower than you’re actually willing to pay. The objective here is to arrive at a happy medium where both you and the seller will be satisfied with the price that you’ll eventually agree upon.

Let’s play out a scenario. You want to buy a fake Rolex watch and the shop owner has asked you to pay 1,000 yuan, so you start the haggle and you offer in Chinese to pay 50 yuan (五十元 – wǔshí yuán). The trader will almost certainly reject your first offer: “Bùxíng!” (不行! – “No!”). Remember, don’t feel guilty. The trader will never sell anything for a loss. Perhaps he’ll come back to you with a price of 700 yuan, at which point you will want to say:

“A bit cheaper!”
Piányi yīdiǎn!

A bit cheaper! - How to Haggle in Chinese when Shopping

And you’ll continue to haggle this way in Chinese, perhaps even pointing over to another shop or stall where the cost is lower:

“This product is cheaper over there”
Zhège chǎnpǐn zài nà biān de shāngdiàn bǐjiào piányi

And never be afraid to walk away. The seller will be half expecting you to.

“It’s OK, forget it, bye bye”
没关系, 那算了, 拜拜
Méiguānxi, nà suànle, báibái

It’s now that you’ll really grab the seller’s attention. Hopefully, they’ll come back to you again with a counter offer, say 150 yuan. If you’re happy to trade at this price, then great. The deal is done. Congratulations, you’ve learned how to haggle in Chinese, you’ve improved your confidence while speaking Chinese and you’ve secured yourself a deal where everyone will go away satisfied!

Haggling is Good Chinese Practice

The more natural you make your language, the more natural your Chinese will sound and the better your negotiating skills will be.

As you study Chinese, you’ll find that learning how to haggle in Chinese will be of enormous benefit in improving your accent and vocabulary as well as practising Chinese in a real-life situation outside the classroom.