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China, Chopsticks & Some Table Manners (Plus A Quick Guide On What To Eat Healthily During Your Visit!)

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If you’ve been forced by your family or friends to travel with them to China and found yourself utterly clueless as to how you’re going to blend with its culture and “certain” table manners, you are not alone. I myself was subjected into such an ordeal years ago. And as a frequent traveler in China now, that embarrassment is now buried alongside those weird gestures I displayed when I first fed myself with chopsticks.


Consider this entire discussion as your quick guide to China’s permeating culture on its food and general manners. Along the way, I’ll also be disclosing some of the crucial ways to observe when using chopsticks. By the end of this article, you can daresay that you belong rightfully in this East Asian nation (well, at least in terms of its etiquette!).

I’ll be dividing this piece into sections in which China is quite critical on. Right before our conclusion, I’ll be outing some of the healthy Chinese food you can opt for when you’re visiting this country. Without dilly-dallying, let’s start on how the Chinese people are behaving when eating.

Via: http://www.daringgourmet.com

How Do Chinese People Eat?

Don’t be too startled, the Chinese just like the rest of us, also observe some table manners when eating. As such, dining habits are heavily expected from the attendees no matter which culture you come from. Generally, you should observe the following points when you get to be seated with them.

1)    Ensure that you let the older people eat first

Once the elder in the table announces “let’s eat,” that’s a safe cue for you to start eating. Otherwise, try your hardest not to touch any food on the table unless you’d want those eyes staring at you for the rest of the meal.

2)    The art of bowl-picking

Seriously. There is quite a meticulous procedure on picking up a bowl in China when eating. Start by picking it up using your thumb on the mouth of the bowl. Your first finger along with the middle and third fingers should support the bottom of the bowl with an empty palm.

The Chinese and The Importance of Seating Arrangement

In China, you just don’t want to sit wherever you intend to, as the seating arrangement in this country is regarded as the most important part of the Chinese dining etiquette. Wait for the host to direct you to your seat.

When you arrive, it is of prime importance that you introduce yourself first. If there’s an off-chance that the master of the banquet takes this opportunity to introduce you to unknown people, make sure that express your gratitude for this gesture.

Whenever the guest of honor or the most senior member is not seated yet, you’re not allowed to sit yet. The same goes in the manner of eating: When these individuals are not eating yet, others should not begin to consume the food on the table either. Meanwhile, the first toast during this interaction should come from the seat of honor and be taken next by whoever’s next by the order of prominence.

China & Its Table of Manners

1)    The Utmost Consideration For Others

When you get this urge to look and dig for the meaty ones in a dish, you need to stop yourself right at that moment. Apart from keeping your eyes glued on a certain plate when eating, these manners are deemed to be tacky by the Chinese people. In this respect, always take the food first from the plates that are in front of you as opposed to grabbing the plates in the middle.

Moreover, when you’re eating your favorite dish, try not to devour it like a horse. It’s crucial that you consider the other attendees at the table. Meanwhile, if there’s not much left on a plate and you wish to consume it, consult the others first. If they decline, you can proceed to eat it.

Other manners under this section that should be considered are:

  • Avoid watching the television.
  • Turn off your smartphones.
  • Dealing with other activities while having a meal.

2)    The “Thank You” Gesture

The Chinese way of expressing their gratitude is usually performed when a waiter or a waitress serves you a tea while you glean on the menu and look for something to order. After this, you may tap the table with your first two fingers 2 or 3 times to show your “thank you” to the pourer for his or her service. This gesture should also signal the pourer that they need to stop pouring the tea.

3)    Elegance Matters

Picking up too much food at a time is considered to be uncouth under the Chinese table manners. When you take food on the table, ensure that you don’t nudge against your seatmates or avoid splashing your food or soup on the table.

Here are the other manners you should be aware of:

  • Close your mouth when you’re chewing your food before you swallow it. As such, don’t fill your mouth with food that you can’t even chew well yourself. This very act leaves a gluttonous expression on them.
  • Use chopsticks or a hand to remove bones or other inedible parts of the meal from your mouth before you put them by the side of your plate in front of you. This should tell you that spitting them right onto the table or ground is unappealing.
  • Always use a tissue or a napkin to ditch the food remnants around your mouth.
  • Try not to converse with others when your mouth is full. If there’s a need to talk, speak quietly.
  • Whenever a need to cough or sneeze arises, use your hand or handkerchief to cover your mouth. Turn your face away when doing this.

Just how do you use chopsticks the Chinese way?

  • Don’t poke your chopsticks in vertically into your food or rice as this is synonymous to funerals in China. During funerals, sticks of incense are stuck in a pot by the rice that is placed onto the ancestor’s altar.
  • Waving your chopsticks that much into the air is frowned upon.
  • When picking up food, exert a sufficient inward pressure onto the chopsticks in order to grasp the food tightly. Then, move the components you’ve managed to secure in your mouth or bowl as smoothly as possible. Dropping your food is considered a bad form in China.
  • When separating a piece of food into two pieces, put a controlled pressure on your chopsticks as you take them apart. This is perfected over time and practice.
  • Use servings spoons or chopsticks (the ones that didn’t come from your mouth) when picking food from the central dishes.
  • Now, if you’ve gotten to a point in which you really can’t afford using chopsticks without embarrassing yourself, ask the staff from that restaurant to provide you with a spoon or fork.

Your healthiest alternatives in China

This section is especially dedicated for those who are looking for the healthiest food options when navigating through the often menu-abundant Chinese restaurants:

1)   Hot & Sour Soup / Wonton Soup

These savory starters should set you back about 80 to 100 amount of calories by just having a single cup.

2)   Vegetable Spring Rolls

These contain about 80 calories per roll on average. So if you’re heading out with your friends for some fried egg rolls by the street, opt for these spring rolls instead.

3)   Steamed Veggies & Lean Protein

If you’re trying to look for an L-carnitine supplement replacement to build some muscle mass during your visit, you can look for any dish that consists of steamed vegetables and lean protein such as chicken, scallops, shrimp, fish or tofu) with sauce. Other alternatives include “The Buddha’s Delight” which is filled with steamed veggies and protein-laden tofu.

For more information about “L-carnitine” and its wonders on muscle-building and weight loss, you may visit this site – https://bodyshape101.com/best-l-carnitine/

4)   Chicken With Broccoli

This combination should provide you a guilt-free 280 calories. If you want to lower the calorie count, you can opt for a small amount of sauce on the side.

5)   Shrimp With Lobster Sauce / Garlic Sauce

If you’re gunning for an ultra-lean protein, you can never go wrong with these two. The former has 450 calories while the latter has 700 calories. Share these with friends so you could break the total calorie count in half.

Final thoughts

As China is also coming from an ancient civilization, its beliefs and culture on its food and table manners have been observed for the longest time from its ancestors right down to its descendants today. And just like each and every culture in this world, it is of paramount importance that these are observed when you get the chance to visit and eat with them.

Performing these rituals and manners should show them that you have taken time to understand them and that you treat its beliefs with respect.

Author bio:

Emily-BrathenEmily is founder of BodyShape101, a blog where she and her associates talk about exercise, fitness, and yoga. Their aim is to help people like you to achieve perfect body. BodyShape101 is concentrated on exercise & fitness tips, and making the most out of it. She is also a mother of one and she tries to find balance between her passion and her biggest joy in life.


The Chinese Quest welcomes original articles pertaining to the Chinese dining experience.  Your article should pertain to Chinese restaurants, Chinese food, recipes, etc.  For more information, please contact us.

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  1. Like Japan, China seems to be a very polite country. And oh, that picture makes my stomach rumble!!

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