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I was told that when you are ordering food you can say either 带走 or 打包.

However, when you are not ordering food and you mean "take this away", then you use 拿走。

Is there a difference in context or meaning between 带走 and 打包?

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If you're in Hong Kong, "带走" is more suitable. Because in the old days, Hong Kong people use 打包 to describe "packing a dead body" so 打包 has a bad meaning. Maybe today the young in Hong Kong aren't aware of it, but it's better to avoid it. – Stan Sep 30 '13 at 15:07
up vote 9 down vote accepted

I agree with coolcfan. In my experience (Beijing), 带走 means take away or take out. 打包 means you want a doggy bag.

Update: As a result of further observation, I've found that both 带走 and 打包 mean take away. However, if you want a doggy bag you would probably say 打包.

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In Taiwan, 帶走 and 外帶 are often used interchangeably. – DanDanZhu Apr 30 '14 at 14:28

So far as I know, the difference is simply a matter of region. In my experience 打包 is more common in central and southern China, and 带走 is more common in the north.

They are interchangeable however, and I personally don't know any situations where one is different from the other.

Hope that helps!

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In the KFC in Dalian, Liaoning, the waiter will usually ask “带走 还是 在这吃”, then you can answer “带走”. I usually say "打包" -- when I am full but there are still some food on the table -- to ask the waiter to provide a box or something so that I can bring the food left home. – coolcfan Jan 31 '12 at 2:14
So maybe in my city, we usually say 带走 when ordering food, while 打包 is used after the meal. – coolcfan Jan 31 '12 at 2:16
@coolcfan 你在哪个城市, 我在西安。 – MaoYiyi Jan 31 '12 at 5:13
@Maoyiyi Dalian, Liaoning 辽宁大连 – coolcfan Jan 31 '12 at 9:05

带走 or 打包 and 拿走 refer to the degree of care required regarding your "takeaway."

带走 (carrying away) or 打包 (wrap it up) means, "I'm taking this home, please treat it with care."

拿走 means "get rid of it." (I don't care how you treat it.)

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打包 is a necessary condition of 带走, unless you like to put your remnant food into your pocket:p

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As a native speaker and Chinese teacher, I would say 带走 and 打包 are interchangeable. Usually after a meal in a Chinese restaurant, it is appropriate to either say 不好意思,我要带走 (Excuse me, I'd like to take leftover to go)or 请帮我打包 (Please wrap the leftover up for me)

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