China pays great attention to courtesy, even when it comes to food culture. Dining etiquette is deep-rooted in the Chinese history, table manners and distinctive courtesies are two indispensable parts of an enjoyable dining experience. In this article we will offer you a few advice on what you need to pay attention to when eating with Chinese people.
1. Eating in a restaurant
In China, if you would like to invite your friend or your business partner to have lunch together in a restaurant, you should let the other side to go through the menu and choose what they would like to eat first as you’re the initiator in this situation. Usually Chinese people don’t tend to be fussy about what they want to eat and may just order a couple of inexpensive dishes. However, it’s customary to “persuade” your guests to order some more dishes or something more expensive in order to demonstrate your hospitality and show your respect to them.
2. Let the elderly start first
Filial piety plays a tremendous role in the Chinese culture, and showing respect for the elderly has always been highly valued in China. Therefore, giving up seats to the elderly on public transport, or helping the elderly cross the street is something young people should keep in mind all the time. Table manners are of no exception here. In China, when eating with people who are older than you, it’s respectful to pass food to the elderly first. If a dish is particularly tasty, you’re expected to let the elders have more of it.
3. Using chopsticks
The use of chopsticks is something delicate in the Chinese culture, and there are taboos related to the use of chopsticks in Chinese table manners. One of the most disrespectful things that you should never do is to stab your chopsticks into a bowl of rice and leave them pointing upwards. This is considered extremely rude. It’s said that in ancient China, a bowl of rice with chopsticks stabbed into it was the last meal served to death row prisoners. Probably that’s why Chinese people regard it as something ominous. It’s also inappropriate to point your chopsticks at other people.
4. Avoid making unpleasant sounds
In the Chinese culture, chewing loudly is viewed as indecent behavior, which is pretty similar to the western culture. In addition, slurping soup off a spoon is also considered discourteous as it’s accompanied by an irritating noise.
5. Use of toothpicks
Many Chinese people like to use toothpicks to clean their mouths after eating. When you’re trying to remove the food that gets stuck between your teeth, always remember to use one of your hands to cover your mouth when using toothpicks. Besides, it’s considered disrespectful if you have a toothpick dangling between your lips when talking to someone.