During that first Autumn I dated John, I truly learned the meaning of “I miss you” in Chinese.
John started his graduate studies at a university in Shanghai, and I stayed back in Hangzhou because of my job. I craved those weekends every two weeks when John returned to Hangzhou like a heroin addict craves their next hit. Which is why, when John wasn’t in town, I’d spend an embarrassing amount of time envisioning our next weekend together — from the the restaurants and the sights we’d see right down to how I’d greet him when he stepped off the bus in front of my community.
So one night, I decided to greet him with an idiom that captured all of the yearning in my heart (a yearning that, admittedly, must have been so nauseating to my Chinese friends at work that they taught me said idiom to get me off the subject). That weekend, I met John at the bus stop with a dozen red roses and the phrase wàngchuānqiūshuǐ (to look forward to or await with restless anticipation).
John loved it, though I’m certain my friend Caroline called the whole scene “nauseating” when I shared it with her at work.
Now that Spring is upon us, a season of longing and love, I thought I’d share a few good Chinese idioms that come in handy when you’re missing or thinking of your sweetheart, or just can’t wait to see them. Each explanation comes with my own intentionally nauseating example of how to use it (you know you love it, Caroline).
望穿秋水 [wàngchuānqiūshuǐ]; 望眼欲穿 [wàngyǎnyùchuān]; 殷切盼望 [yīnqiēpànwàng]
All three of these mean essentially the same thing — “to look forward to something/someone with eager anticipation.”
I looked forward to John with great anticipation as I waited for him at the bus stop.
Wǒ zài Gōngjiāochēzhàn wàngchuānqiūshuǐ de děng John.
急不可待 [jíbùkědài]; 迫不及待 [pòbùjídài]
Remember those jitters you had just before your first date (or weekend out) with someone special? Here are two perfect idioms to capture that feeling — both mean “to be extremely anxious/to be too impatient to wait.”
I couldn’t wait for my date with John, so that I wanted to leave early.
Wǒ pòbùjídài de xiǎng gēn John yuēhuì，yǐzhìyú pànwàngzhe zǎodiǎn xiàbān.
一日不见，如隔三秋 [yīrì bùjiàn，rúgé sānqiū]
This literally means “one day apart from someone seems like three years.”
One day apart felt like three years in my relationship with John.
Wǒ gēn John de guānxi kěyǐ shuō yírì bújiàn，rúgé sānqiū.
Are you the kind of person who longs for your Sweetie all the time? Then you need this idiom, which means to “long for/think of [someone] day and night.”
The way I yearned for John day and night “nauseated” my friend Caroline.
Wǒ duì John de zhāosīmùxiǎng ràng wǒ de péngyou Caroline gǎndào “ěxīn.”
This phrase means “to keep something/someone in mind all the time.” It’s not a love-only idiom, but you can definitely use it if you always hold that someone special in your thoughts.
John is always on my mind no matter where he is.
Bù guǎn tā zài nǎlǐ, wǒ duì John niànniànbúwàng.
魂牵梦萦 [húnqiānmèngyíng]; 刻骨相思 [kègǔxiāngsī]
These idioms provide you with the easiest way to express your longing. Both mean “to miss very much/to long for someone.”
I missed John very much when he wasn’t in Hangzhou.
John búzài Hángzhōu shí, wǒ duì tā húnqiānmèngyíng.
What phrases did I miss? What are your favorites?