dining china


The Chinese have long been known for their hospitality and passion especially when it comes to inviting friends and family to dinner. Instead of ordering our own food and eating alone, we have the custom of sharing the dishes together with whomever we eat with. Either dinning out in a Chinese restaurant or being invited to a Chinese’ family, it is inevitable to have meals with the Chinese as long as you try to fit into the local culture. Generally, we don’t have many strict manners or rules to follow for a casual meal. However, it would be better if you have common knowledge about the Chinese local dinning custom which will help you to understand Chinese culture better. Since China shares a large population and covers a vast land, people might share quite different rules related to eating. This article mainly talks about the taboos you show pay attention to no matter where you dine in China.
1. Don’t poke the chopsticks into the bowl of rice or any other food.
In China, we have a sort of ceremony on the day someone dies in memory of him or her. One of the dishes is a bowl of rice with a pair of chopsticks poking into it. It means that it is only for the dead and the chopsticks should be pulled out after the ceremony. Normally just place the chopsticks horizontally over your plate whenever you stop or finish eating.
2. Don’t forget to bring something with you when you are invited to dinner.
Most of the time, the host/hostess will tell you not to bring anything when you come over to have a meal. Even though it is their real intention but it would be better to bring some stuff with you unless you two are really close friends and you have eaten with that family several times. Normally the gift can be anything, but mostly it is a certain kind of food. If you have no idea what to bring, then fruit should be the best option.
3. Don’t sit in the wrong place.
Round tables are widely used in China therefore you may assume that all seating positions are the same. Well, that is not true. It does have some untold principles. The seat that faces the door of the dining room is the main seat. It is only meant for the person with vital position or with a special identity, for example the boss, the host/hostess, the one who organizes the meal or the only guest in the group.
4. Don’t start eating before the host/hostess does.
Whenever you are invited to others people’s houses, you need to follow the instructions of the host/hostess. Usually it is polite to start eating while they move their chopsticks. Sometimes they want to show respect and they ask you to pick up the food. Likewise, those who are in a vital position or carry a special identity are supposed to eat first before others.
5. Don’t remain the food in your plate.
Whenever you go out to eat, it is up to you to decide whether or not to remain food in your plate, especially when you have eaten to your fill. However, it is globally recognized that wasting food is not good, but when you dine at someone else’ house, if you still have some remnants in your plate after eating, it indicates that you don’t like the food which could be a terrible disaster. Nevertheless, if you are too full to finish the remaining food don’t force yourself just try to explain it to the hosts/hostesses and they will understand you.
6. Don’t make noise while eating
In some countries, it is a way to show how much you like the food by making noise while eating. For example in Japan, it is ok to make noise when you are eating the noodles, on the other hand, it is forbidden in China and it is seen as a crude behavior. In the ancient time, talking while eating was also considered as bad table manners, luckily it has changed, people can now chat freely with each other while they eat.
7. Don’t pick up too much food in your plate at a time.
In some countries, people have their own plate of their food. Naturally some foreigners tend to pick up all the varieties of food they would eat from the dishes on the table at a time. It is considered as a very inappropriate behavior which indicates that you are afraid that others may steal your food. However, there are some exceptions, for example the soup, the noodle or other main food that is supposed to be shared by everyone on the dining table.
These top 7 dining taboos in China should be considered whenever you are been invited to a Chinese home for dinner. Let’s hear your comments!! What do you think? Do you have something like this in your country?



    • In America, we also are taught to not talk with food in our mouth. Of course, we can talk during a meal, just stop eating for a moment.

      On the subject of noise in general, we are taught to chew our food with our mouth closed. I have a good Chinese friend who always chews his food with his mouth open, making loud chomping sounds, haha! But I love him anyways! 🙂

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