Customs and Etiquette in Chinese Dining

It is essential to be aware of the social customs and traditions of a culture to prevent accidentally offending others. Eating is more than a personal necessity as food is part of a cultural identity and a way to connect with other people.

Unlike Western cultures where eating is an activity that can be enjoyed alone, eating is a communal activity in China where people would share their dishes with others. Eating is an essential aspect of Chinese culture as it is one of the most common ways to establish social connections and spend time with family and friends. Therefore, having proper etiquette is important for one’s reputation as it indicates good education and upbringing. 

Personal Behavior

Chinese cuisine tends to serve dishes in bite-size pieces or employ cooking techniques that make dishes soft enough to be picked apart easily since chopsticks and spoons are used in Chinese dining instead of forks or knives. When eating with chopsticks, it is impolite to use chopsticks to spear food, point at people, pick teeth, bang or move the bowls, or chew or wave them around. They are only used for picking up food. When not in use, chopsticks are placed on available chopstick rests or across a bowl or place. Do not stick them upright on food as it is said to bring bad luck because it reminds people of incense used in funerals.

Communal Eating

Eating together is very common in China, either in a formal or informal setting, and dishes are shared among people. At some formal meals, there may be pairs of communal serving chopsticks specifically for shared dishes only. It is considered rude to take most of a dish before it is offered to everyone. Ask for permission to take the last piece of food on a communal dish. it may sometimes be considered impolite to refuse when offered the last bit of food.