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Chinese Table Manners

China is country of courtesy. According to the traditional Chinese etiquette, there are strict rules about people’s daily life, like the way of walking, standing, the polite behaviors when meeting up with people, as well as the table manners. Chinese table manners are part of Chinese catering culture, and include a series of rules, such as the chopstick etiquette, how to order dishes, seating arrangements, and so forth.

Chinese Table Manners

Seating arrangements 

Generally speaking, the best seat is that on the left, east and facing the gate, and will be arranged for the main guest, the elder or boss. Those next to the best are also good ones. The worst is where waiters serve the dishes. If attending a banquet, the most important table serving for the main guests will be in the front and in the middle of the restaurant hall. It is better to be seated after the elders are seated.

Chinese Table Manners

How to order dishes in China

Ordering dishes is the most important part of Chinese table manners. If time permits, the menu will be circulated among the people in attendance. If you are the host, make the final decision after asking for the others’ opinions. If you are one of the guests, you may order an inexpensive and commonly-favorite dish. Chinese table manners advocate that we must consider the others’ dietary restrictions. For example, the monks are vegetarians, and don’t eat any kinds of meat. 

When in China, you are encouraged to respect and follow the local dining etiquette. However, make sure you also try the local specialties and have an interesting food tour. The most popular dishes at a Chinese banquet are fried spring rolls, dumplings, large meatballs, spicy diced chicken with peanuts. If you are traveling around, don’t miss the Pita Bread Soaked in Lamb Soup in Xian, hot pot in Chengdu or Chongqing, instant-boiled mutton in Beijing, beer fish in Yangshuo, etc. 

Chinese Table Manners

Eating etiquette in China

In ancient China, each person had his/her own table, with his/her own food. This is somewhat like the Western table manners. But the individual dining habit has been changed since Yuan Dynasty. However, the essence of Chinese dining etiquette is still kept today. 

Chinese are particular about food, as well as what they look like when eating food. After being seated, the waiter will give you a towel to wipe the hands. When there are dishes about lobster, chicken or fruit, a bowl of water may be served with some rose petals or lemon slices, which is not drinks but to wash your hands. At a standard Chinese banquet, the cold dish will be served first, then the soup, the hot dish, the main dish, and dim sum and fruits at last. Here are some important tips for the table manners in China. 
  1.  Be graceful and polite when taking food with chopsticks.
  2. Don’t make much noise when eating or drinking soup.
  3. Don’t talk when there is food on the mouth.
  4. Don’t point someone with chopsticks or play with chopsticks.
  5. Pick the teeth with toothpick.
  6. When filling the bowl with rice, it is better to have twice or more for one bowl. don’t insert chopsticks in the bowl with rice, as it indicates worship ancestors. 

Chinese Table Manners

Drinking etiquette in China

As far back as the West Zhou Dynasty (1046BC - 771BC), China has established a complete drinking etiquette, which advocates people to drink wine in the right time, be moderate in drinking, and comply with the the etiquette. It is common to propose a toast at a banquet in China. How to propose a toast is important for learning the Chinese table manners. 
  1. There must be something for which you’d like to propose a toast.
  2. To propose a toast, it is polite for you to stand up, and hold the glass with your two hands.
  3. if you want to offer a toast to the people in attendance one by one, make sure you know the order, according to the age and status.

Chinese Table Manners

Leave the dinner

Don’t forget the etiquette when leaving the dinner. Show your appreciate to the host and invite the host for a dinner. If you have to leave halfway, you should explain the situation and analogize to the host.