Photo credit: Dima Valkov
Oh my God! – Ối giời ơi (pronounced like oi zoi oi)
One of the most common expressions you’ll here in Vietnam is Ối giời ơi, which has the same meaning as “Oh my god!” or “Oh Heavens!”
As a foreigner, it is also an easy way to make people smile and laugh — Vietnamese people love to hear foreigners say it, and not many foreigners people learn it.
The expression is neutral — it can be said in polite or formal situations, as well as in good or bad situations. Much like the English oh my god, you can use it when you are surprised in a good way or if something bad happened. A person’s body language communicates whether the context is good or bad.
One can say the full Ối giời ơi or truncate the expression to just giời ơi — both are commonly heard. It is slightly more polite to use the full expression, and so foreigners should say ối giời ơi.
Pronunciation of Giời Ơi
The letter Gi are pronounced like zee.
The ờ has the down-tone diacritic, meaning that it should be pronounced with a deep downward-pitch. The Ơi is flat, but it should be emphasized and drawn-out for more effect, much like Americans draw-out “gawd” when they say “Oh my god!”.
“Oh Heavens” in Vietnamese
Giời means “heaven”, so the expression is better translated “Oh heavens!” or “Heaven help me!”, which are the politer versions of “Oh my God!” and have the same meaning.
Variants – Ối trời ơi
Trời also means heaven, and you will commonly hear Ối trời ơi as much as a variant of the expression “oh my God!” It has the exact same meaning as Ối giời ơi, and both are used in equal proportions.
Trời is pronounced like choi, whereby the “tr” has a ch-sound.
Of the two expressions, it is better to learn Ối giời ơi rather than Ối trời ơi. The gi sound is considered more natural and easy-to-articulate that the “ch” sound of trời.
· Ối trời ơi – Oi choi oi
· Ối giời ơi – Oi zoi oi
OMG – Make People Laugh in Vietnamese
There is something slightly comedic about the expression Ối giời ơi. As a foreigner, you can easily make Vietnamese people laugh and get a little “insider cred” by using their slangs appropriately, especially if you say it with the long drawn-out ơi at the end.
Other funny slangs to learn include nha, which is like the Canadian “eh?”
Other Helpful Expressions in Vietnamese
Interested in learning more? Please see our Word Of The Day blog that provides more expressions and key cultural insights about Vietnam, through the lens of helpful words and phrases.