Today, I’m going to teach you a useful Mandarin Chinese phrase to describe uncivilized, or even “disgusting” behavior: 倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu). Our Mandarin language teacher taught us this phrase when we were discussing taboos in Chinese culture. So, when can we use this phrase?
Studying in China and leaving “Western culture” for “Eastern culture” is quite the learning experience! For example, in China blowing your nose is considered rude and in bad manners, but back home in the USA and other countries it’s quite normal for people to bury their nose in a tissue, especially during cold season or times when allergies act up.
Also, putting your shoes on things, especially public objects, is also considered abnormal and ignorant here in China. I once put my boot on a park bench while tying my shoelace and my Chinese friend warned me that putting your shoe up on something is considered impolite. Well, now I know! On the other hand, there is behavior here in China that would be considered abnormal back in my hometown. It’s good for everyone to study up before moving abroad.
For extreme situations, when you see someone truly making a scene or disrupting the public, you can use the expression 倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu) to show your disgust at that person, people or situation.
倒 (dǎo) means “close down, fall over” here.
胃口 (wèikǒu) = appetite.
倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu) = spoil one’s appetite; get fed up.
When you witness a bad situation, or people causing a scene, you may think to yourself or whisper to friends “倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu)” to show that it “makes you sick” or causes you to lose your appetite. Be warned, 倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu)” is not something you say to someone in a confrontational way, just language to say to yourself to secretly with close friends!
Wǒ kàn dào tā jiù dǎo wèikǒu.
我 看 到 它 就 倒 胃口。
I feel sick at the sight of it.
Zhè bù diànyǐng kěndìng huì shǐ nǐ dǎo wèikǒu.
这 部 电影 肯定 会 使 你 倒 胃口。
This film certainly turns your stomach.
Another example could be eating a fish with the head still on it. In the USA, it is unusual to see fish served with the head still attached, the little eyes staring up at the hungry diner. This may cause some Americans to 倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu). Likewise, in China blowing your nose in a restaurant, something not all that unusual in the US, may cause Chinese diners to 倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu).
Creating a disruptive “scene” in public, often considered a fun experience for Americans, is generally looked down upon in China, where people do their best to “go with the flow” and not stand out too much in a crowd. When a Chinese person sees this behavior they may say to their friend:
Zhè zhēn ràng rén dǎo wèikǒu.
这 真 让 人 倒 胃口.
I feel sick at the sight of this situation.
It’s important to remember that when you are in a foreign country, study up on what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable, or what may even cause others to lose their appetite!
In China, you may cause someone “倒胃口 (dǎo wèikǒu)” if you:
A. Wait in line at a queue
B. Create a disruptive “scene” in public
C. Put money in a red envelope as a wedding gift
D. Order a fish that is served with the head still on it
―Written by Philip Reed―
Philip Reed is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing. He has been studying for one year in China and before that had an interest in Chinese at university in the U.S. He loves Chinese music and culture and can sing a few Mandarin songs at the KTV when he has free time!