First impressions can be tricky to navigate, especially in a new language. Maybe you should be super casual and make friends at the risk of oversharing. Maybe keep reserved and cultivate an air of mystery at the expense of seeming standoffish.
Alas, nothing is ever that simple, and greetings turn into a verbal war of attrition, leaving all participants brutally battered by the end.
Fortunately, in the Chinese language there are accepted norms when it comes to self-introductions. They concisely describe certain character traits, meaning you do not have to resort to long-winded explanations on how you “like to stay indoors, but not because you have no friends, but just because it is something you feel more comfortable doing”.
Some are fairly general in their definition, while others have been direly overused (to the point where the meaning has been all but lost).
So the next time a meet-and-greet with strangers is on the horizon, equip one, two, or even all of following phrases into your vocabulary to knock those intros out of the park.
小鲜肉 (xiǎo xiān ròu)
Literally translated as “Small Fresh Meat”, this delightfully suggestive title is given to the males of the species when they are young, both mentally and physically.
These small fresh meats often behave in a way that will either make you gush at how cute they are or immediately wonder if you can see into your brain by rolling your eyes. Their (perceived) naivety and innocence will allow much leeway when it comes to social and professional etiquette.
萌妹子 (méng mèi zi)
You can think of this as the female version of 小鲜肉.
In fact, that is exactly what it is.
女汉子 (nǚ hàn zi)
And so we come to the first phrase that needs to be retired from the popular vernacular.
女汉子 is meant to convey a woman who regularly displays behavioral traits most commonly associated with males. This could mean anything from weightlifting to smoking to shaking off at the urinal. It is normally used in a positive light, but of course there are many negative stereotypes.
Unfortunately for those of you looking to work this phrase into your next get-together, over the past few years 女汉子 has gained popularity and is now “trendy”. This has resulted in an epidemic in which seemingly every woman has come to admit that they were closeted 女汉子s all along.
暖男 (nuǎn nán)
This phrase suffers from a similar problem as above and also shares many similarities with 小鲜肉. In the case here, 暖男—which can be literally translated as “warm man”—came to prominence through Chinese indulgence of Korean drama.
The soft spoken, vaguely feminine male character often tries his best to win over the female lead, but comes short at the very end. Despite losing to the guy at the top of the call sheet, these warm men have thoroughly won over Chinese audiences.
Many girls in China now strive for boyfriends that are 暖男. And when the buyers demand, the sellers supply.