Destination tips

Chinese dining etiquette – 5 things you need to know

By February 18, 2015 November 6th, 2018 No Comments
Chinese dinner etiquette

Chinese dinner etiquette

You’re all set for your holiday to China and excitedly anticipating your trip. You’ve mapped out all the exotic must-sees, and as with many holidays, are excited about sampling the country’s authentic food.

But China doesn’t’ just showcase any old grub. Oh no. The food here is the granddaddy of incredible cuisine and boasts a worldwide reputation.

However, there are some things you need to know about Chinese dinner etiquette before you set foot in the country, to avoid any embarrassing foodie faux pas. On top of this, good table manners in China supposedly bring luck…so here we go:

  1. DON’T chopstick twiddle

Now, chopstick handling can be a problem in itself for us knife and fork-loving Brits.

So it’s probably a good idea to practice using them before you jet off, AND brush up on chopstick etiquette – which means no twiddling, gesturing or pointing.

Use the other end of your chopsticks to transport food from serving dishes to your plate –whatever you do, don’t use the end that has had your chops around it.

  1. DON’T finish your dinner

Since we’ve been kids, most of us have had it hammered home to us to finish our meals – accompanied by disapproving looks if we left as much as a stray pea on our plates at a relative’s house. In the UK, an empty plate signals to our host that we have enjoyed our meal and are leaving feeling content and satisfied.

In China, quite the opposite is true. If you are invited to a formal buffet it is actually considered rude to finish your food as it suggests your meal was insufficient and your host hasn’t provided enough.

  1. DO slurp and spit

Ignore those things your mum told you about not making slurping noises when eating your soup. In China it is quite acceptable when drinking soup or eating noodles to slurp away. It is also acceptable to spit out small bones on to your plate rather than using your hand to dislodge any troublesome bones.

Now we know rice can be particularly tricky to eat, and novice chopstick handlers are more likely to end up with it on their laps than in their tums. That’s why it’s also handy that it’s considered perfectly normal to pick up your bowl and use your chopsticks to push rice into your mouth – bingo.

  1. DO take your lead from the host

If you are invited to a meal, there is a lot of etiquette surrounding the host. The chair facing the entrance is where the guest of honour is seated and the closer you are sat to that person, the higher your status (so you’ll be in no doubt of where you rank in the pecking order if you’re miles away). You must wait for the highest ranking person to lift their chopsticks and start before you do, and when the meal is finished, you should leave the table only once the host has.

  1. DO serve others first

You’ll be thought of as extremely rude if you serve yourself food or tea before asking others first. So if you’re craving another cuppa and the person next to you is deep in conversation, what do you do?

Well – certainly don’t interrupt – this is a big no-no. Simply pour your guest a drink – and don’t be alarmed if they tap their third and index finger on the table twice – this signals a thank you without having to stop the conversation. Genius.


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