Chinese food is an incredibly popular foreign food that everyone loves to eat, from college students to working professionals. It’s delicious, for starters, but it’s also often very cheap, delivers almost everywhere, and it’s usually open on holidays. Even if you’ve been eating Chinese food for years, or you’re just discovering how amazing it is, everyone could use some lessons in Chinese food etiquette and how to avoid the top mistakes that people make when eating this food. What better way to honor and respect the Chinese culture than to make sure you’re appreciating the food traditions and culture. Read on for the top mistakes and suggestions so you can make sure you’re treating this food right.
1. Split multiple dishes with the whole table
Similarly to many other Asian cultures, when eating Chinese food, the best way to enjoy it is to eat it family style. That means you should be ordering a lot of different types of food with your dining partners so everyone can have a little taste of all there is to offer. Don’t make the mistake of ordering only one thing for yourself and not sharing, since that’s a big faux-pas.
2. Keep your feet firmly on the floor during the meal
It might seem obvious to some, but a lot of people still tend to make this mistake. In Chinese culture, showing the bottom of your feet is a sign of extreme disrespect. According to Tammy Ludlow, a food blogger at Australian Help and Paper Fellows, “in Buddhist culture, your head is the part of your body that is the holiest, whereas your feet are considered the dirtiest and the lowest. That’s why you should always keep your feet on the ground, because if you’re positioning the soles of your feet toward someone, they may get extremely insulted.”
3. Use your chopsticks only for eating, and nothing else
There’s always one person who will use their chopsticks for drumming on the table or for pointing at people and things. This is a big no-no and considered rude in pretty much any culture. Chopsticks are for eating only, for moving the food from your plate or your bowl to your mouth. You wouldn’t start drumming with spoons and forks in public, so don’t do it with chopsticks. You also shouldn’t be sticking your chopsticks straight down in your food. When chopsticks are sticking upright in your food dish, that represents death. Chinese people, including your server, could take this to mean that you’re wishing ill on them, so avoid doing this.
In another chopstick etiquette, you shouldn’t be separating your set. Don’t use one only to stab pieces of food – always use two to pick up your food. Similarly, if one falls to the ground, just get another full set.
4. Serve food and drink in the right order
Serving tea is all about respect. You should always follow tradition and start by serving the eldest first. If you’re the one serving the tea, you should always be serving yourself last. When you pour, hold the lid at the same time.
5. Thank the host or server
It’s important to remember to thank the host or server and show your appreciation. You can do this by tapping your index and middle fingers on the table, which is accepted in Southern Chinese culture. You can also nod and say thank you, which will be recognized in any culture.
As per Rob Ghali, a lifestyle writer at Academized and State of Writing, “if you eat every single bite of food on your plate, it will give the message that you’re hungry and the host did not give you enough food. However, if you’re leaving a few morsels behind, don’t leave just rice as this is considered rude as well.”
7. Tipping is complicated
Tipping is a tricky situation. If you’re in China, tips are not customary and you should not be leaving one. However, if you’re eating at a Chinese restaurant in North America, you should be tipping when you pay.
These tips and suggestions are all about respect. When you show that you’re going out of your way to respect another culture, it goes a long way.
Ellie Coverdale is a lifestyle writer at UK Writings and Essayroo. She enjoys traveling and sharing her experiences with her audience. Her passion for traveling is about exploring new cultures and learning about history and tradition. Ellie also teaches writing classes at Boom Essays.
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