Chinese Eating Etiquette

By Emma, Australia, June 2011

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Many of us know that sticking chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice is considered inauspicious, right? Well, when it comes to Chinese table manners that’s just the beginning. Here are a few things worth considering when eating in China.

1.      When dining with Chinese nationals, allow the host to guide you as to where to sit. There is a strict protocol and ranking that the host determines. If you are the guest of honor, you will be seated to the right of your host with the best view of entrance door and other guests. Seated next to the guest of honor will be the highest ranking member of the gathering or family (usually the eldest member of a family), and next to them, the second highest ranking member, and so on and so forth.

2.      You may only start to eat once the host and all the guests are seated and the host has begun to eat.

3.      Dishes are usually presented at the center of a round table and shared by the guests who each have a cup and a bowl on a small dish with chopsticks and spoons.

4.      Unless you are eating soup, use your chopsticks to eat. Try to resist the temptation to play with your chopsticks or point and gesticulate with them.

5.      Only take food from plates nearest you and don’t pick it over for your favourite bits!

6.      Don’t pour your own tea or wine - your drink will always be filled by someone else, usually the one who sits closest to the pot or bottle. Drinks will be poured according to ranking.

7.      Try to arrive on time and bring a small gift for the host. 

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