You walk into a Chinese restaurant and the waiter or waitress serves you a cup of tea and leaves you the entire teapot before you even ask for it. Well, don’t be shocked, that is just courtesy and they are telling you to enjoy as you choose food from the menu. When your food comes, don’t stick your chopsticks in the bowl of rice, you may scare the rest of the diners as that is associated with death and bad luck. If you are visiting a family, make sure you don’t sit on the seat that faces the entrance since that may show disrespect to the senior member of the household. These are just some of the things you need to know the next time you visit a Chinese family or restaurant.
Do Come With A Gift But Not A Clock
When visiting someone in China, especially for a meal, it is customary to come with a gift. However, if you come with a clock, your host may be shocked since that signifies a countdown on their lifespan. The same goes for scissors which signify the severing of relationships. When presenting the gift, your host may reject it politely once or twice before they finally give their gratitude, so don’t take it back when they say no at first. You can also come with wine or other drinks to spice up the party if you can.
Don’t Drink Before The Toast
Toasts are one of those things that most Chinese families tend to overdo, or so you may think. While the drinks won’t come before or during the main meal, you may serve beer, wine or other alcoholic drinks after the meal. However, don’t start drinking before toasting as that would seem rude. In most cases, the eldest person in the house will propose the toast first then everyone else can toast. It is also customary to join in on the toasts whenever they are proposed, however many they may seem. The words may be hard to understand but if they do understand you, just say you wish that their wishes come true when you are the one proposing the toast.
Be Gentle With The Chopsticks
In China, you may not be served with knives, forks and knives at the table, but if you need them, all you have to di is ask. Most people eat with chopsticks here and they are supposed to be used for eating and not as toys. When talking, don’t point at people with your chopsticks. You should also avoid playing around with the chopsticks at the table or using them to stab food. Don’t use your chopsticks to serve food from the common dish either since that may seem unhygienic and disrespectful. You should also avoid sticking your chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice too since that is associated with a ritual performed with incense sticks at funerals.
Don’t Sit On The Command Seat
The seat facing the entrance of the house is called the command seat and that is reserved for the senior-most member of the household. When you come in, you should wait for your host to show you where to seat to avoid making this mistake. You also shouldn’t take your seat until after the senior-most member of the household has done the same. If you are the guest of honour, and happen to be offered this seat, don’t turn it down. If you are offered that seat, then it means you will be the first person to serve at the table and also the one to propose the first toast when it comes.
Don’t Start Eating Before The Elders
Elegance and patience are the two virtues you have to display at a table in China and that requires that you don’t disturb other diners or appear to be in a hurry. So, once the food is served, wait for the eldest members of the household to serve before you do. You should also serve from the dishes closest to you and avoid knocking over things on the table. Once the eldest person or the senior member of the household (your host if you are in a restaurant) says that everyone can now dig in, you can start eating.
You Can Burp
In China, you are required to taste at least a piece of all the food served at the table and make a sound that shows you like them. You can just do this even if you won’t serve the food in your own bowl to show appreciation to the cook or your host. Burping is not frowned upon either as it is a sign that you ate your fill and are happy with the cook and your hosts.
Don’t Dig Through Dishes For Treasure
When serving food, you have to wait for other people to finish with one common dish before doing the same. When you get to the stew dish or salad, you may find that your favourite dishes are not in sight and temptation to start digging through may be high but you can’t do that. Digging through a common dish with chopsticks is outright disrespectful. If you don’t see what you want, just skip the dish or pick whatever you can see.
Don’ Clear Your Plate
In many places, after serving food on your plate, you are expected to finish all of it to avoid any wastage. However, if you finish all your food in China, your host may think that you are not satisfied and therefore feel disappointed. You don’t have to leave too much food that will go to waste either. Just eat your fill and leave something small on the plate to show your hosts that you have had enough. If you need a refill, you can always ask.
It Is Alright To Accept A Refill
When eating with many people in China, especially the elderly, they may keep putting more food on your plate during the meal. While they may give you foods that you don’t like, you can’t reject them because that may seem rude, so you just have to eat it. As for tea, if you need more, all you have to do is leave remove the lid from the pot. If the waiter has poured enough tea for you in the cup, you can just tap twice on the table to notify them that you’ve had enough.
You can Drink From Your Bowl
After serving your food, it is encouraged to bring the bowl close to your mouth or bend your face into the bowl while eating to avoid making a mess at the table. You can also use your fingers to eat chicken, shrimp and other foods that you may not comfortably pick and eat with chopsticks. However, don’t touch food that is not already on your plate with your fingers or your chopsticks. You can also drink from your bowl while eating, but not the common dish from where everyone is getting their food.