Forget Valentine’s Day – how about a festival to celebrate singledom?
Singles’ Day is celebrated in China on the 11th of November. As the name suggests, it’s an occasion for singletons to celebrate (or commiserate) their lot. Find out more, pick up some fun Chinese Singles’ Day expressions, and learn how this unique event generated $25 billion in revenue on a single day in 2017….
Lonely hearts in the millions
Singles’ Day is known as 光棍节 (guangunjie) in Chinese, which literally translates to “two lone poles”. This refers to the solitary 1s lined up in the date 11/11, resembling a row of single people. The custom originally began in the 90’s amongst university students in the city of Nanjing. From there it spread and is now celebrated nationwide in China.
There could not be a more appropriate place than China for a singles’ celebration: 14% of the population is estimated to be single – that’s a whopping 200 million people. This would be a big marketplace to tap into, and that’s exactly what someone has done…
The world’s biggest shopping day
In 2009, savvy businessman Jack Ma, founder of the Chinese online shopping megalith Alibaba, turned Single’s Day into an online shopping event. Since then, Singles’ Day has exploded beyond singletons to become the biggest shopping day on the globe.
For 24 hours from midnight on 11 November, prices are slashed on millions of products across thousands of brands online. Shopping malls hold discounts too, but the majority of shoppers will be crouched over their keyboards and counting down till midnight, eager to snap up an online bargain.
To give you an idea of the volume of shopping that happens: last year on Singles’ Day, shoppers in China spent 25 BILLION dollars – in just one day! That’s bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined across the US, Canada and Europe.
Singles’ Day expressions in Chinese
In the spirit of Singles’ Day, here are some fun and humorous Chinese language expressions that are commonly used for this singular celebration:
买买买! (mái mái mǎi)
Buy buy buy!
Pretty self-explanatory. It’s what millions of people in China will be doing on the 11th of November.
To chop off one’s hand
A rather extreme, though no doubt effective, solution to going overboard on the shopping! This expression is commonly used by shoppers who have overindulged on the Singles’ Day discounts.
A common example sentence would be 再买就剁手 (zài mǎi jiù duò-shǒu): If I buy anymore, I will chop my hand off!
吃土 (chī tǔ)
To eat dirt
This is used to express the consequences of too much online shopping. You have spent so much that you’re now so poor you can only afford dirt for meals.
An example sentence: 我要吃土了(wǒ yào chī-tǔ le): I will have to eat dirt
The literal meaning is to fight a bloody battle, but the pronunciation is also a phonetic translation of the English word “shopping”. So now it has a second meaning, to shop madly – sometimes akin to warfare!
Example sentence: 我今天下午要去商场血拼 (wǒ jīntiān xiàwǔ yào qù shāngchǎng xuè pīn): I’m going to the shopping mall this afternoon.
双十一 (shuāng shíyī)
Double eleven. Another name for Single’s Day, and a reference to the two elevens in the date 11/11.
Example sentence: 我今年双十一要买很多东西 (wǒ jīnnián shuāng shíyī yāomǎi hěnduō dōngxī): This year on Singles’ Day, I will buy a lot of things.
Why not learn more useful and fun Chinese expressions with the Memrise Chinese course?