Why are Chinese People “Hitting the Card”?

Hit the Gym and dá kǎ

On my days off I like to hit the gym. Most people go to the gym to improve their health or physique, but I’ve also found it a useful place to improve my Chinese. People in the gym aren’t usually interested in practising their English with a foreigner, but they usually hold the stereotype (rightly or wrongly) that westerners know a lot about exercise and training. This makes the gym a great place to meet people with a shared interest who are willing to speak to you in Chinese.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is that some of my friends on social media started going to the gym and posting pictures with the phrase 打卡 dá kǎ (hit card). At work dá kǎ means to “clock in” and “clock out”, so it’s basically like telling social media that you have “clocked in at the gym”.

This might just be an example of people showing off that they’re at the gym. In fact, the hashtag #健身打卡 (jiàn shēn dá kǎ / work out clock in) seems to be popular for showing off gym selfies. But for most Chinese people, recording on social media that they have dá kǎ is just a useful way to keep track of how many times they go to the gym and keep themselves motivated. In a way they’re holding themselves accountable to their social media because if you have regularly dá kǎ at the gym and then suddenly stop, everyone is going to know it.

These people often don’t upload a picture of themselves, but just a picture of the gym with a caption like 健身打卡 jiàn shēn dá kǎ (work out clock in) or 见天运动打卡 jīn tiān yùn dòng dá kǎ (today exercise clock in).

This friend wrote 重新打卡开始啦 chóng xīn dá kǎ kāi shǐ la which literally translates as “from the beginning clock in start”. In other words “start clocking in (at the gym) again from the beginning”. Basically, he hasn’t been going to the gym for a while and now he is going to start over again clocking in at the gym and keeping a record of it on social media.

dá kǎ isn’t just limited to going to the gym though. Chinese people studying at a language training school will also upload pictures of their textbooks with the phrase dá kǎ. Similarly, adults taking their children to after school classes might also upload pictures of their children in class with the caption dá kǎ. So if you’re studying Chinese you might want to do the Chinese thing and start keeping a record of it on social media. Every time you have a class or do an hour of studying simply take a picture and write something along the lines of 今天汉语学习打卡 jīn tiān hàn yǔ xué xí dá kǎ. Just make sure your friends know your doing it to keep yourself motivated and not pretending to be a vagina.

Not sure what “pretending to be a vagina” means in Chinese? Click here to find out.

Enjoy going to the gym in China? Click here for some useful tips and vocabulary.