A typical greeting here is, “Have you eaten?”
I believe this has to do with the issue of hunger in the past, and the emphasis on the importance of food.
The way the guidebook says this phrase is, “Sik jaw faan may?” but you will hear a less formal “Sik faan may?”.
Try saying it like this, “Sick faahn maah”. Don’t use an upwards inflection to indicate a question. Say it as if it is a sentence, because that is how the intonation works.
I had been told it was just a greeting. I was not to get my hopes up, no one was actually offering me food.
Then, a while back, the grandpa that lives below us greeted me with this question. The confusing part was that he asked while making the gesture of holding a bowl of food and putting it to his mouth with imaginary chopsticks. He did this two days in a row. I politely nodded and kept walking.
Finally on the third day, I slowed down, only to realize he was offering me some Tofu Pudding, which I’ve heard referred to as Dofu Wa and Dofu Fa. I had been confused because he was saying something I thought was only a kind greeting, PLUS he was also referring to the dessert as “Dow fa” or “Dofuhua”, a pronunciation I had not heard yet.
After much confusion and polite nods back and forth, I was served up a bowl. Maybe he said something more literal, as in, “May I offer you some food?”, but I’ll never know. If anything, I’ve learned to slow down a bit more. It might mean someone is going to feed me treats.
Thanks for getting confused with me on another Mumbling Monday!