Fair weather friends, last-minute flakes: Cantonese slang for the most annoying pet peeves

  • As you start going to large gatherings and hanging out with friends again, there may be some people that you’re not very excited to see
  • Lucky for you, we have a list of all the best phrases for the unreliable, exasperating bad habits that people in your social circles may have
Yanni Chow |

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Which of the behaviours in our list is one of your pet peeves? Photo: Shutterstock

While some might be excited to meet friends after many months of Hong Kong’s social-distancing restrictions, this might not apply to everyone.

You might have acquaintances who always want to chat and hang out longer – causing you to look for a polite way to turn them down. There may be people in your friend group who are always late, waste food, or cancel plans at the last minute. You might be able to tolerate good friends who have these traits, but the worst type of “friends” are those who are only around when things are fun.

Use these Cantonese slang phrases to prepare yourself for re-entering social environments – as well as all the good, bad and ugly that comes with it.

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1. Eyes bigger than your stomach

眼闊肚窄 ngaan5 fut3 tou5 zaak3 (ngan-foot-tow-zahk): “Eyes wide belly narrow”

Meaning: describes people who excitedly order too many dishes and end up not being able to eat them all

Example: Let’s not be ngan-foot-tow-zahk when we go for dim sum because I don’t want to waste food.

Any amount of wasted food is a sad sight. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Cancel at the last minute

放飛機 fong3 fei1 gei1 (fong-fay-gay): “Fly aeroplane”

Meaning: to cancel a prearranged event, such as a meeting, date or obligation, especially at the last minute

Example: I cannot believe Tommy fong-fay-gay again – I wonder what his excuse is this time.

Learn Cantonese slang: How to complain about your family’s bad habits

3. Tardy

例遲 lai6 ci4 (lai-chee): “Usual late”

Meaning: describes someone who is always late

Example: Why don’t we start eating without waiting for Andy? He is lai-chee anyway.

Try telling your “lai-chee” friends that dinner is happening 30 minutes before the actual reservation – that way, they’ll be early for once. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Fair weather friend

酒肉朋友 zau2 juk6 pang4 jau5 (jau-yook-pung-yau): “Wine meat friend”

Meaning: refers to someone who is a friend only when things are going well and leaves you when you are facing troubles. The phrase is used to talk about friends that you only meet when you are having a party or doing something fun, but you never rely on them when you have serious problems.

Example: I thought Sally was a good friend until she blocked me on WhatsApp after I lost my job. She is just a jau-yook-pung-yau.

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5. We should hang out sometime

得閒飲茶 dak1 haan4 jam2 caa4 (duck-hahn-yum-cha): “Free drink tea”

Meaning: to invite someone for a meal or to hang out. While this phrase can be used genuinely, it is often a mild and indirect way of delaying meet-ups without saying no to someone’s face.

Example: It’s so nice to bump into you here, but I am running late, duck-hahn-yum-cha!

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