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Chopsticks lift a dumpling from a bamboo pot
17 May, 20192 minute read

Table manners in China

In our four-part series, ‘The Antidote to culture shock’ we’ll be unpicking the taboos and traditions of Modern China and Japan so you don’t end up with egg noodles on your face. This week, we’re looking at table manners in China and all the dos and don’ts to live by. 

Mastering chopsticks: If you find yourself in a bamboo related fumble, here’s the easiest way to master these ancient utensils: First, hold the upper chopstick like a pencil. Then, place the second chopstick against your ring finger, holding it with the base of the thumb. Lastly, move the upper chopstick with your thumb, index, and middle fingers. Voila!

Crossing over:  Unless you’re offering up your food to the spirit of a past relative, avoid crossing your chopsticks. Placing your chopsticks across your bowl or upright in rice is very unlucky as this represents a ritual for ‘feeding’ the dead.

‘Ooh what’s over there?’: Stretching your index finger over the upper chopstick can easily be mistaken for pointing and can come across as accusatory.

Digging a hole: Most traditional Chinese dishes are served in small bowls, so it’s tempting to chase after that sunken bit of drunken duck at the bottom of bowl, however (back to death) this is sometimes called ‘grave-digging’ and is considered uncouth.

Lift the bowl: Unlike European etiquette, it is considered absolutely normal to hold a bowl closer to your face in order to ‘shovel’ food in your mouth.

Sharing is caring: it is a common gesture in families to transfer a choice bit of food to a relative’s bowl as a sign of caring and respect.

Family enjoying traditional Chinese meal in outdoor restaurant

Ready for a meal out in China? Perhaps join one of our tours to the Land of the Red Dragon and test your skills.

Image of blog author Nicola James

Nicola considers herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of places around the world and these experiences usually involve searching for as many kinds of wildlife as possible. Recent highlights include penguins in Antarctica, bears and whales in Canada and Alaska and sea otters in California - but there are always more animals to search for.

Nicola | About the author

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