Chinese table manners: 8 Do’s and 8 Don’ts



Chinese table manners: 8 Do’s and 8 Don’ts

There have been many articles on Chinese table manners. China’s eating culture can be as confusing as is its drinking culture.

Having good table manners in China can help you to avoid embarrassment. There are certain rules of of etiquette. For your own convenience and to fresh up my own knowledge I have listed the common Do’s and Don’ts of Chinese table manners.

8 Do’s

  1. You are allowed to smoke while eating, and even socially encouraged

  2. It is considered polite to serve the guest of honor the best food, usually using a pair of serving chopsticks or with the back end of one’s chopsticks

  3. When taking a break, leave your chopsticks on the side of your plate or bowl; use the chopstick rests if they are provided or lay them even and tidy on the table, avoid crossing them or putting them on the rice bowl.

  4. It is socially acceptable in China to spit bones on the table, and preferable to removing them from your mouth with hands or chopsticks and putting them back into the bowl

  5. Making slurping noises when drinking soup and eating noodles is acceptable

  6. Rice can be eaten by raising the bowl to the mouth and shoveling the rice in your mouth with the chopsticks

  7. If you are not hungry anymore, or don’t want to eat something, let your host to place the delicacy on your plate and just leave it uneaten

  8. The dinner is over when the host stands up and offers the final toast; you are expected to leave immediately thereafter

 

8 Don’ts

  1. Wait until you have been offered a seat. Usually the guest of honor sits to the right of the host

  2. Never begin to eat or drink before your host does

  3. Serving dishes should not be picked up and passed around

  4. The spoon should not be used at the same time as the chopsticks

  5. Do not use your chopsticks to point at food or for gesturing in the air while talking

  6. Do not use your hands to handle food. Lift large pieces of meat with your chopsticks and nibble.

  7. Don’t point with your chopsticks and don’t stick your chopsticks into your rice bowl and leave them there standing up

  8. Never consume alcohol alone. You can toast someone, or wait until someone toasts you (however, you can drink tea and water whenever you feel like).

 

8 Chopstick No No’s

chopstick no nos small

  1. Do not leave your chopsticks pointing directly at someone across the table.
  2. Do not use your chopsticks to point at food or for gesturing in the air while talking
  3. Do not play with chopsticks
  4. Don’t use them to move anything other than food
  5. Do not suck sauce off the ends of your chopsticks, even at the end of the meal
  6. Do not spear food that you are having difficulty holding onto
  7. Don’t stick your chopsticks into your rice bowl and leave them there standing up
  8. Do not dig around or pick through your food with your chopsticks to find a special piece

 

Let me know if I missed anything important. I have to add, that how strict those rules are applied can vary. And especially during family gatherings those rules are not followed that strict. There is also a significant difference between small towns and big cities.

The overall rule of thumb is: Relax, and if you make a mistake, no one will cut off your head. After all, you are a foreigner. But it helps to know the etiquette in advance to avoid a major faux pas.

Do you enjoy Chinese banquets? What are your experiences with Chinese table manners?

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

11 thoughts on “Chinese table manners: 8 Do’s and 8 Don’ts

  1. That was pretty spot on! :D I remember we were having dinner with CC’s dad’s boss one time and CC put the chopsticks into he’s rice and let them stand there, no idea why, because he knows its a big no no, and he’s mum was furious haha.

  2. Indeed most table manners I also encountered during my trips in China and yes, it depends on the people how strictly these rules are followed. For example I never knew about the thing that you shouldn’t use spoon and chopsticks at the same time!

    Love your new design and I am interested how you created it as I am myself working on an update for my blog :)

    • Yes Timo you are right, it really depends on the people. At home my mother-in-law doesn’t really care. We can use chopsticks to point and swirl in the air haha But if we go to an very important business dinner there are so many little rules!
      Yeah, I forgot to mention the “don’t use spoon and chopstick at the same time” rule

    • Oh forgot to answer your question about how I made this blog :)
      In general I started with a paper and pen and drew a design, how I wanted it to look like, what features I needed, etc. Than I design a new logo, got new domain and hosting space. I am with wordpress.org. First I tried to customize free templates but they just couldn’t give me what I wanted, so I got some one to program me a custom wordpress template, which in the end I adjusted to my needs :D If you have fast internet and a bit of html and wordpress skills, it is fairly easy, and kinda fun.

    • Thank you Nicki. I hoped to make it easier to navigate. Now since the design is done, I can fully focus on writing posts again.
      If you have any suggestions to improve this site even more, I am always open for them.

  3. I seem to be making the “don’t point your chopsticks at anything or anyone” mistake a lot recently. I didn’t in the past, so it’s kind of weird I started this bad habit recently. Maybe it’s connected to trying to hold onto our baby who just loves to move around while eating?!

    Love your new design! Looks like a lot of work.

    • Actually, to be honest I do tend to use chopsticks when I talk. It’s just I generally gesture a lot with my hands when I talk, so if I forget to put down the chopsticks, they turn into my arm extention.

      Thank you, the design itself was decided fairly quickly. What talk very long was the programming, and adjusting, and moving every single picture (they got lost when moving the posts). Especially because we have extremely slow internet, and foreign sites just open from 7am to 9am :(

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