Green Hats and St. Patrick’s Day

Living in the U.S. for about four years, one thing I’ve learned about is Americans’ enthusiasm for St. Patrick’s Day. While it is a bigger holiday in America than in Ireland, it gives people another reason to indulge in beer and have a good time. Personally, I would avoid this holiday simply because I don’t want to get into the holiday mess, but I did have the opportunity to experience it once.  Once was enough for me, and I discovered a rather interesting cultural difference – A LOT of people were wearing green hats. 

Of course, it’s St. Patrick’s, you have to wear something green when you go out, or you will get pitched by total strangers. But to a Chinese person, the smiling faces under those green hats seemed very silly. Because a green hat (绿帽子 lǜ mào zi),  means something not so good in Chinese culture. 

绿帽子lǜ mào zi is a suggestion that someone is being cheated on, usually a guy, and everyone knows about the affair but him. So, to refer to such an unfortunate person, we can say “他戴着绿帽子 (he’s wearing a green hat)” .


  • 她给她男朋友戴了绿帽。Tā gěi tā nán péng you dài le lǜ mào。She put a green hat on her boyfriend’ head. (Suggesting the boyfriend may not know about it.)
  • 他被女朋友戴了绿帽子。Tā bèi nǚ péng you dài le lǜ mào zi. (Same meaning with 被bèi.)

Other variations

绿光 lǜ guāng: green light

他的头上泛着绿光。Tā de tóu shàng fàn zhe lǜ guāng。His head is glowing in a green light.(A joking way to suggest he’s being cheated on.)

绿 lǜ as a verb

你被你女朋友绿了! nǐ bèi nǐ nǚ péng you lǜ le! You’ve been “greened” by your girlfriend! (Your girlfriend is cheating on you!)

Anyway, that day I was so tickled by the fact that everyone looked so happy with the green hat and tried really hard not to make fun of them. I think maybe one day I will wear a green hat to a St. Patrick’s party and claim I am Irish too.  

An Yi, Emily and Maria's classmate for four years, does social media management in the U.S. for GoEast and writes for their blog. She taught Chinese in American high schools for two years and is now settling down in Texas, looking forward to be a Chinese teacher at local schools again.