It’s Not Karaoke: What You Should Know About Chinese KTV

Okay, maybe it’s a little like karaoke…

What is KTV?

Foreigners find Chinese people to be quite stern and rigid in everyday life, but this all changes when it’s time for KTV! In Mainland China, KTV means having a private room with a tablet for picking songs, loud speakers, comfortable sofas, and mood lighting. This is quite different from the public stage karaoke that so many westerners are used to.

There are just too many shy Chinese people who are dying to belt out a classic. Once inside one of these private KTV rooms, we have the freedom to sing and dance! It’s a safe space where we can let down our guard and show our friends who we really are. It’s our way of letting off steam.

How to KTV…

If your friends invite you to KTV but you can’t sing any Chinese songs, don’t worry. Most KTVs have a surprisingly large and diverse catalogue of songs: Chinese, English, contemporary and classic. Keep an open mind. If you were wondering what kind of songs Chinese people usually pick at KTV, I really can’t give you a definite answer. Many of my friends (mostly girls) prefer mellow songs and love to practice their singing technique. When hanging out with my bffs, My Chemical Romance is always the first choice!

Playing dice and other drinking games is a standard for Chinese KTV nights. Although KTVs provide food and drinks, keep in mind that they usually are quite expensive. As college students, my friends and I would often sneak our own drinks in.

Useful Terms

We all have that one friend who sings one song after another. They refuse to give up the microphone, we like calling them a mài. mài comes from the first character in microphone màifēng and  stands for a person who is overbearing. Depending on the context, it could be taken as a joke or a compliment. Another great phrase is pǎodiào (literally running keys) meaning to sing off-key. yīnquán, describes somebody who never hits the right key, like me! If you want to give some compliments, just say this:

Author pictureThis blog is provided by GoEast, Professional Chinese Language Training. Zhang Yan (Eva), is the newest member of the GoEast Team. She is passionate about teaching Chinese as a second language and takes great interests in Chinese and western cultures. Especially Western TV shows!

This is the accompanying blog post for our elementary lesson “Let’s go to the KTV together“.

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