Chinaversary n. pl. Chi·na·ni·ver·sa·ries
The annually recurring date of one’s initial arrival in China, especially when of great personal importance, as in the case of a “China expat.”

No, I can’t say I coined the term. I just learned this amusing word last week, which was quite timely because this month I had my 6 year Chinaversary.



John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Six, Half Dozen, Seis, Liou! Congrats again on time well spent =)

  2. Korea expats have Koreanniversaries; that is, we remember the day we arrived in Korea. I borrowed the term from your original phrase. Is it a sentimental Western thing or do you suppose most foreigners remember the date they arrived in a foreign country?

  3. Three years, three weeks for me.

  4. Three years, three weeks for me. And you thought I wouldn’t last more than a year. 😉

  5. LInguistically speaking, I find it interesting that, when adapting the word “anniversary” to indicate the memorial of some event, people always cut off the most meaningful part of the word. “Chinaversary” is a perfect example as it cuts off the “ann” part (from the Latin “annus” meaning year). People always take out the part of the word that actually means “year”. Also, I hate it when people refer to their six-month anniversary. Since anniversary can only mean one year, how can it be a six-month anniversary? Impossible. They should say it’s their .5 anniversary or something like that. Doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, but it’s definitely more accurate. What can I say; I’m a nitpicker.

  6. Happy Chinaversary, Happy Chinaversary, Happy Chinaversary – HA—PPY Chinaversary… alright, so no one has the tune to that in their head but me… but well… John, congratz.

    I’ve still about 4 months to go until my 2 year mark.

  7. John,
    Is there a special song, food or celebration ritual (aside from beer) for this occasion? What’s next? Will Halmark create a card for this?

  8. People don’t speak Latin so “anni” literally does not have a meaning. And, what does “versary” mean? If it means “celebration,” then “koreaversary” would parse OK.

  9. Sonagi,

    I don’t even remember the exact date I arrived (although I could probably dig it up if I really wanted to). I just remember that it was in August.

  10. Carl,

    You still amaze us by the fact that you are still here. 🙂

  11. Stuart,

    Yeah, I agree with Jeff. We don’t understand words according to their etymologies. It doesn’t work that way. It’s enough that we automatically associate “-versary” with “anniversary.”

  12. People are just lazy. We just use the end of the word regardless of etymology because it’s too much of a hassle to look up the Latin or Greek meanings of stuff. Also, how should we go about using the beginning of the word? Anni-ina? Anniversachina?

  13. Mark,

    How else do we keep English so damn fun for others to learn if we aren’t doing our best to complicate things, misuse and make up new words?

    I used to cringe every time I heard the words “gigabyte” or “Linux” come out of somebody’s mouth, because they always screw up the pronunciation. I gave up that fight long ago. It’s too difficult to get a person to pronounce a word properly when it seems like everybody else is saying it incorrectly. It’s easier to be lazy. 🙂

    Happy Chinaversary!!

  14. julienne~~~ Says: August 21, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    After 2 or 3 yrs in China I was always reminding myself and others (subtly) that I was a China veteran, not a rookie. After 5 years I didn’t want anyone to know how long I’d been there because that causes people to have certain expectations regarding your Chinese fluency and knowledge of Chinese culture. Anyone who’s hit the 5 yrs and beyond mark knows that complete Chinese fluency – being able to understand anyone speaking Mandarin from any part of China and being able to converse fluently on any topic, is almost impossible, but it just discourages the newbies too much when they find out you’ve been there 7 yrs and you still need someone to repeat a phrase now and then, and it’s face losing for yourself. As for understanding Chinese culture – I’m pretty sure it will take a lifetime, but I guess I’ve been there long enough to worry about losing face 🙂

  15. haha~~ finally! I noticed it some days ago!!
    Happy Chinaversary, John! 🙂

  16. And it just so happens that I just arrived here for the first time a few hours ago… 😀

  17. Ahhhhh,,,, one year and counting for me. And I still suck at Chinese!

  18. Wow. I’m suprised that someone so interested in language can dismiss etymology so easily. I understand words that way, but I guess that just makes me a dork or something. Maybe because I did study Latin. I don’t know. Personally, I propose we don’t make up cute little phrases to mean things, especially when we already have words to communicate the concept. We already have a word that describes the yearly observance of one’s arrival in China. It’s anniversary. It applies to all yearly observances.

    But, do as you will. People have been raping the English language for years. Why stop now? Seriously, though, I’m not the biggest language purist I’ve ever met. I use words that aren’t actually words from time to time. There are those people who are huge sticklers though. I’d say I’m about 80 percent stickler. But I don’t think we should go completely the other direction, throw out things like etymology, and give value to total bastardizations of language (like ebonics).

    I guess all I’m saying, John, is that I think there are a lot of people who would disagree with you on this point. But further consideration would mean getting into the whole “if the true purpose of language is to communicate and people understand the meaning of what you’re saying, then who cares how the word is shaped” discussion. Anyway, I’m done now. I see your point, but I personally will never use words like “Chinaversary”. Actually, Sonagi’s “Koreanniversary” is much better.

    I’m rambling. In any event, congratulations on the anniversary of your arrival in China.

  19. Settle, Stuart. Etymology is important, but only so far as it describes how words came to be. It can’t set the rules for the formation of new words. That would be getting prescriptive and a very good way of ossifying and eventually killing the language, not to mention taking all the fun out of language.

    Julienne, you’ve described exactly the process I’ve seen in myself. Weird how China changes you.

    Happy Chinaversary, John.

    My seventh is coming up soon….. I must be getting old or something.

  20. And I’ll say that language is defined by usage patterns, and attempts to formalize it as a Latin language were mostly started and abandoned during the 19th century. A number of the artifical rules of the movement (no split infinitives, nouns being used as verbs, etc.) will result in language patterns that are unnatural, and the rules were ignored by many of the best English-language authors. Furthermore, the idea of an ideal or perfect form of a language is kind of silly, everybody knows living languages will & should change.

    Why is ebonics a bastardization of the English language? It observes a slightly different set of rules, but is capable of expressing meaning, and being clearly understood by other speakers, isn’t that some kind of acid test for the validity of a dialect? Really I think the only knock on ebonics is that in a formal setting, most people will associate it with ignorance.

    Kind of interesting, there’s a theory the term pidgin derives from an old Chinese name for the area around the Bund, where they spoke a mish-mashed English. Anyway, does that mean I can’t say Pidgin English unless I’m referring to English spoken in a central-Shanghai manner? If it’s discovered that the word actually derives from the Portugese word for “small,” can I only use it for the English of former Portugese colonies? Words change meaning, the language is better for it.

  21. Would it make anyone happier if I mentioned that in Japan we have “Japanniversaries”, which does indeed preserve the part that means “year” quite well?

  22. Ditto, John. I’m stoked that Carl is still in China. Then again, he IS from Wisconsin 😉 I’ve been told by more than one Wisconsinite that returning home is NOT an option.

  23. […] It’s August 8, 2008 (08-08-08), and I’ve now been in China 8 years. (Yes, it’s my Chinaversary!) […]

  24. Shucks…sure wish I’d thought of this when I was living in Tokyo.
    Then I could have celebrated my Japanniversary a few times…


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