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Hong Kong | © Flickr/Studio Kanu
Hong Kong | © Flickr/Studio Kanu
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Phrases You Only Know If You're From Hong Kong

Picture of Pauline Mae De Leon
Updated: 30 May 2017
Every country or city has a set of slang words or phrases locals use to speak to each other. When travelling or migrating to a foreign country, it’s understandable new arrivals want to blend into the lifestyles surrounding them, but often the words needed to fulfil this wish don’t appear in the dictionary. Here, we come to your rescue by translating a few useful phrases – so you can convince everyone you’ve lived in Hong Kong forever.

Sap sap seui (濕濕碎)

This particular phrase is used to describe something when it doesn’t take much effort.


This is an expression which doesn’t really mean anything, but Hong Kong locals often use it at the end of a sentence, similar to how we say ‘um’. You can literally add it to anything, for example: ‘I’m going to the grocery store lor’, or ‘I’m fine lor’.

Nui sun (女神)

Nui sun means goddess. This phrase refers to the attractive girl many are envious of. You could call Regina George or Blair Waldorf a ‘nui sun’.

Ga yau (加油)

The literal translation to this is ‘add oil’. However, locals use it to encourage one another. Typically, when students in Hong Kong go through tests or exams, they tell each other ‘Ga yau!’, as it means, ‘you can do it!’.

You can do it! | © Walter/Flickr
You can do it! | Walter/Flickr

Cher (扯)

Cher is an expression used by locals when something isn’t as good as it seems, or they feel like they are being fooled.

Ai ya (哎呀)

Ai ya is the local’s way of saying ‘Aw shoot’ or ‘Aw man’.

Chok (樣)

‘Your face is chok’. This refers to the guy, or girl, who looks like they’re trying too hard to look cool. It’s basically the Hong Kong way of saying ‘cringe’.

Bok jun (搏盡)

University students in Hong Kong are known to push themselves over the limit and work 24/7 for that 4.0 grade point average. ‘Bok jun’ refers to those people whose attitude is to strive for the best.

Gwai lo (鬼佬)

This term is used, often insultingly, to describe those with European descent. Its literal translation is ‘ghost person’; some expats refer to themselves as ‘Gwai los’, but for others it’s offensive.

So now you know Hong Kong’s (not so) secret phrases. The next time you’re in the city, try using some of them. You’ll feel like one of the locals in no time.