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Why do Chinese refuse to be complimented?

You would be confused when in response to a passionate and sincere exclamation "You are beautiful!" they hear something like, "no, not at all" or "nali nali" (which means "no" too). You may hear this response in nearly every scenario when you compliment a Chinese.


For instance, when you says to a Chinese, "You English is very good", a typical reply is, "Nali nali, my English is poor." When you compliment your colleague, "You did a very good job." A polite answer (accompanied by a smile) would be, “Oh, don't laugh at me. I still have a lot of things to learn. You are better than me."


Chinese are often very implicative toward the compliment and they respect all other people while they are quite humble when in the communication. They are unlikely to respond to a compliment with thanks or any other acknowledgement of its validity. One rather responds with a certain mood of self-depreciation. Chinese politeness emphasizes respect for the other and modesty for oneself. "Self-depreciation" can be seen, as another way of saying "modesty".

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