Jack, a foreign friend who has studied Chinese for almost half a year, was excited about finally coming to China and putting his new knowledge to use. One thing Jack learned was that people in China greet each other with the sentence "你吃了吗？ (Nǐ chīle ma?) Have you eaten yet?"
But once in China, he found that no one used this expression! People always greeted him with "你好 (nǐ hǎo)" or "hello/hi." Jack even heard friends greeting each other with the expression, "最近忙什么呢？ (Zuìjìn máng shénme ne?) What are you doing these days?" or "最近还好吗？ (Zuìjìn hái hǎo ma?) How are you these days?." But seldom had he heard people ask each other "你吃了吗 ？ (Nǐ chīle ma?)/吃过饭了吗？ (Chī guò fàn le ma?) Have you eaten yet?" He felt very disappointed because he couldn't use the expression he had studied and wondered if he had learned incorrectly.
The truth is, the greeting Jack learned is correct, although it is not in common use. The traditional Chinese expression "你吃了吗？ (Nǐ chīle ma?) Have you eaten yet?" is still common to hear in the countryside, but if you are in a big city, people will greet each other in more modern ways.
As English becomes more popular in China, greetings like "嗨 (hāi) hi" are increasing in popularity as well. "最近忙什么呢？ (Zuìjìn máng shénme ne?) What are you doing these days?" and "最近还好吗？ (Zuìjìn hái hǎo ma?) How have you been?" and "最近怎么样？ (Zuìjìn zěnmeyàng?) How are you these days?" are more common greetings among classmates and friends. Actually, China is a country which pays a lot of attention to communication between people. Friends like to catch up with each other, and that’s why friends talk about their life when meeting after a long time.
Hāi, Lily, hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn.
Karen: 嗨，Lily，好 久 不 见。
Hi, Lily, long time no see.
Shì a, Karen, zuìjìn zěnmeyang?
Yeah, Karen. How are you these days?
Hái bú cuò, nǐ ne? Zuìjìn máng shénme ne?
Karen: 还 不 错，你 呢？最近 忙 什么 呢？
I‘m good, and you? What are you doing these days?
Wǒ zhǎole fèn xīn gōngzuò.
Lily: 我 找了 份 新 工作。
I found a new job.
Nà gōngxǐ a.
Karen: 那 恭喜 啊。