Dining etiquette in China and Chinese culture is not quite the same as it is here in America. There are different expectations and, it should go without saying, different cultural norms. If you’ve always been curious about Chinese dining etiquette, we can help you grasp the basics.
Proper Seating Etiquette
Once you arrive at the banquet, you should introduce yourself immediately. If you are unfamiliar with the other guests, allow the host of the banquet to make the necessary introductions. After all the introductions have been made, you should sit according to the order the host has arranged around the table. Following the seating arrangement is the essential element of Chinese dining etiquette. Also be aware if the guest of honor is present. If they are not in the room, or not seated yet, no one else may sit. If the guest of honor has not eaten yet, others may not eat. The guest of honor should start the round of toasts before they continue down the table.
When eating, remember that Chinese dining etiquette has a different concept of what constitutes politeness and civility. It is critical that you mind your table manners. Here is how you can avoid offending your fellow diners:
- Allow your elders to begin eating first. If you hear an elder announce it’s time to eat, it means you can start eating, too. Just as it is rude to begin eating before everyone is assembled at the table or (in some instances) saying grace before a meal, eating before your elders during a Chinese banquet is frowned upon.
- Be sure to pick up your bowl, too. Keep your thumb on the edge of the bowl, and use your index finger, middle finger, and third finger to support the bowl and leave your palm empty. Leaving the bowl on the table to lean over it while you eat is considered bad form.
Proper Table Manners
Here is how to observe proper table manners:
- Think of others before yourself.
- Don’t hoard your favorite dish for yourself.
- Focus on the food and who you’re dining with.
Guidelines for Chopsticks
When using chopsticks, don’t leave your chopsticks sticking straight up out of your food, and especially not in a bowl of rice. If you do this, it will put your Chinese companions in mind of a funeral – and it’s a bad omen. You should also refrain from waving your chopsticks around or playing with them – no drumming on the table!
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