China Elevator Stories

“Go Die, Idiot!”

Chinese people commonly think I’m insulting my husband.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


Sometimes people in China will hear me tell my husband: “Go die, idiot!” They’ll turn their head, surprised that a Western woman would talk like this with her Chinese husband.

I’m not actually this rude. Let me explain.

What people understand in Chinese is not what I actually tell my husband. What do I say?

Ever since one of my colleagues asked me how to say goodbye in German, saying this German word has become a running gag in my company. Goodbye is “Tschüss” in German. It sounds just like the Mandarin Chinese equivalent of “go die” (去死).

My husband and I call each other “Schatz” (which is a common German endearment couples use, that has the meaning of “treasure”). “Schatz” sounds like the Chinese word for idiot (傻子).

So every time I say “goodbye, honey”, Chinese will think I’m randomly insulting my husband.

Are there any words in your native language that sound like Chinese?

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