Basic dining etiquette & customs in China
Dinning etiquette in China can be quite intricate and daunting at first. The following etiquette and customs may ease your nervousness and make you enjoy China's cuisine more. Dinning etiquette in China can be quite intricate and daunting at first. The following etiquette and customs may ease your nervousness and make you enjoy China's cuisine more.
In Chinese restaurants, knives should not be seen on the table. Chopsticks, bowls and soup spoons are the traditional table ware. Food is always cut into bite sized pieces, whole meats such as pig, fish and poultry are cooked till they are so tender that the meat can be removed right off the bones with chopsticks. When using chopsticks don't point them directly at people and never stick them standing upright in your rice bowl -- this is a reminder of the incense burned at funerals.
Use a clean spoon solely for taking food from communal plates for yourself or others, if you serve someone with your own chopsticks, use the blunt ends that don't go into your mouth. Though you may see that Chinese people take food directly with their own chopsticks sometimes, especially it will be like that when people have meals with their families, relatives and intimate friends. If you're invited to be a guest at a meal, don't be surprised that if your host orders more food than you can have, this is the way for Chinese people to "save face" and show their hospitality. And also, please don't be surprised if your host keeps serving you choice morsels of food even you don't ask for it, this is another way to show hospitality.
In Chinese customs, the inviter always pays for the meal, unless amongst friends or in an informal setting. It is polite to make an effort to pay, but expect strong resistance, that is why in many Chinese restaurants, it is a common sight to see two people arguing loudly after a meal-they're fighting for the right to pay. When you are not so sure what to do, simply ask your guides or do as local people do.