Can understand Chinese singles

In which countries in Asia is Mandarin better understood than English?

I have just spent a week in Seoul and a lot of the shops there seemed to be more fluent in Mandarin than English. This was particularly noticeable in tourist areas such as the Myeongdong area and the Noryangjin fish market. In fact, almost every vendor at the Noryangjin Fish Market spoke Mandarin (I look Chinese so everyone tries to speak to me), and it took a while to find someone who could understand at least a little bit of English. I think this is due to the large number of Chinese tourists present in these tourist shopping areas. In general, however, there were more signs in English than in Chinese, and many Koreans (especially older ones) are more positive about western countries than China.

I imagine it's pretty similar in other countries - in tourist areas, you will likely find a lot of Mandarin speakers trying to sell stuff to Chinese tourists, but outside of those areas, English is probably more common than Mandarin. There are likely to be exceptions - Singapore is definitely one of them as a vast majority of its population are ethnically Han Chinese.

As a side note - for the Korean part of your trip, you might want to spend a few days learning Hangul, as it's an incredibly easy alphabet to learn. Even if you don't know what most of the words mean, you'll find that a lot of Korean words sound very similar to their Mandarin counterparts, and you might even be able to figure out what some Korean characters are saying there are no English / Chinese translations available. If you're speaking to someone in Korea who doesn't speak English or Mandarin, you might be lucky if you say a few nouns in Mandarin and hope that the Korean counterpart of these characters sounds similar.

March Ho

Singapore is not one of the countries as English is the working language and is 100% understood almost everywhere.

Nukeguy

You can definitely only get by with English in Singapore, but I'm sure there are many non-tourist areas in Singapore where Mandarin is "more common" than English, especially among older ethnic Chinese. According to Wikipedia, "Singaporean Mandarin is the language spoken as the mother tongue of the largest number of Singaporeans, with 1.2 million using it as their mother tongue."

jpatokal

@nukeguy While Mandarin is indeed the most common native language, 1.2 million make up only about 25% of Singapore's population. English is the lingua franca that everyone speaks, Chinese, Malay or Indian. Older Chinese tend to speak southern dialects (Hokkien, Cantonese, etc.), not Mandarin (which is based on North Chinese).