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Doing your grocery shopping in Chinese is a great and practical way to put your skills to use. First of all, you can make your grocery list in Chinese. Check that post for some vocabulary charts on vegetables, fruit, meat, seafood, everyday items, and clothing. Once you have your list ready, it’s time to go to your local market. Shopping here rather than the big chain stores has a few benefits. For one, you’re giving your money directly to the farmers. It’s also quite a bit cheaper to do your shopping here. Finally, you get to practice your Chinese much more, as you interact with each vendor individually and pay as you go along through the market. In addition to your list, you’ll need to be armed with a bit more Chinese to do your shopping. We’ll learn about buying groceries in Chinese in this post, starting with some units of measurement.
When it comes to buying food in the local market, you’ll need to understand the measurements that are used. Perhaps the most important one is the jin (斤 – jīn). One jin is equal to 500 grams, and it’s the most common measurement used when quoting prices for fruit, veggies, seafood, or meat. For example, when you ask how much the bananas are, you’ll get a price that’s per jin. If you don’t quite need 500 grams of something, you can always ask for half a jin (半斤- bàn jīn). For certain things, you’ll probably just want to tell them how many grams (克 – kè) you want if it’s less than that. For example, you might want to buy one hundred grams (一百克 – yī bǎi kè) of strawberries as buying too many would probably result in some of them going bad.
Now that you’ve got your measurements down, it’s time to pick up some useful phrases for buying groceries in Chinese.
While it’s not that common to bargain for your groceries, sometimes you can ask for a little discount if you’re buying in bulk or if you think the produce isn’t that great. For example, if some fruit looks like it’s going to go bad tomorrow, it doesn’t hurt to ask them to knock a little off the price.
Generally, your conversations in the market will be short, sweet, and to the point. This is great if you’re still a beginner, as you really don’t have to say a whole lot! Let’s take a look at a sample conversation between a buyer and a seller in the local market to see how you use the units of measurement we learned as well as the useful phrases. Try to read and understand the conversation in Chinese before opening the English translation below.
After studying these posts, you should be ready to get out there and do your grocery shopping in Chinese. If you’re wondering about buying clothes in Chinese, we’ve already covered that in a few posts – Part One and Part Two.