Thu, Nov 08, 2018 - Page 15 News List

‘Buhaoyisi’ culture and profuse politeness in Taiwan: BBC
台灣人超愛講「不好意思」 BBC大揭秘

Entertainer Melody Yin says “buhaoyisi” when admitting that she likes to be called slim during an exclusive interview with Bella magazine in June last year.

Photo courtesy of Bella magazine

For the outsider, Taiwan may seem like the world’s most apologetic country, obsessed with saying buhaoyisi (a term similar to “excuse me”), according to a BBC report titled “The island that never stops apologizing” last week. In fact, the article said, “the culture of buhaoyisi reveals a lot about the island’s hidden layers of modesty and shyness,” and the term serves as a catch-all phrase that can be deployed in almost all kinds of situations.

Although the term is made up of four characters that literally translate to “bad meaning” or “bad feeling,” simply saying buhaoyisi “can open a Pandora’s box of profuse politeness,” while the Western notion of “excuse me” is far too limited to express all the social graces and good manners of this popular expression in Taiwan.

Moral teachings of Confucianism and decades of Japanese colonization have played a key role in shaping Taiwan’s buhaoyisi culture, the report said, although some argued that constantly apologizing for small inconveniences can do more harm than good and even affect your self-esteem.

(Eddy Chang, Taipei Times)


雖然「不好意思」這四個字英文直譯為「不好的意思」或「不好的感覺」,但是說出該詞「就像打開潘朵拉的盒子,充斥著多種客氣含意。」而西方「抱歉」(excuse me)的概念則太過局限,無法涵蓋這個台灣流行語在社交禮儀和禮貌行為的各種意涵。




1. apologetic adj.


(dao4 qian4 de5)

2. catch-all n.


(wan4 yong4)

3. Pandora’s box phr.


(pan1 duo3 la1 de5 he2 zi3)

4. Confucianism n.


(ru2 jia1 si1 xiang3)

5. colonization n.


(zhi2 min2 hua4)

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