7 Eating Rules to Remember When Visiting China
Eating while in Beijing, China will be one of the most exotic experiences most travelers will ever experience. For starters, you will be expected to eat using chopsticks instead of a fork and spoon. More importantly, there is an entire culture surrounding the proper and polite way to use this utensil. Learn more about chopsticks and other important eating rules for visitors to China.
Chopsticks are Not for Stirring Serving Dishes
Your chopsticks are not used to stir serving dishes, just like you would never allow your chopsticks to hover around. Keep your chopsticks in your clutches when eating in China. Stirring your food especially in a serving dish is considered an offense to the chef.
Food is Never Passed With Chopsticks
Passing a piece of food to someone with your chopsticks—or receiving food by snatching it with your chopsticks—is extremely taboo. This is related to a Buddhist funeral rite that involves passing bones of a cremated body using chopsticks.
Chopsticks Should Never Stick Up Vertically in Food
If you leave a chopstick sticking out of a bowl of rice, this is a no-no. You are essentially feeding for dead people, which is not exactly in good taste when dining in Beijing. So remember the key—vertical chopsticks symbolize death.
No one likes to think of death when eating so plan accordingly. That is unless you are attending a funeral. In that case, leaving a small bowl of rice with an upstanding chopstick is perfectly acceptable.
Seating Arrangements Are Based On Seniority
The most important aspect of Chinese etiquette when dining is the seating arrangement. Avoid the faux pas of plopping down just anywhere or–the horror–of asking to move to a different table. The seats facing the east, entrance, and right side tend to hold more cultural value.
Your Host Always Orders Food for All
The ordering of food will be taken care of by the host. This is great for you as a visitor since you will most likely be unable to read the menu, in Chinese writing, or tell the waitstaff what you want properly. Plus, the host will make sure you have the best delicacies and local cuisines, which allows you to truly experience Beijing and China when visiting the Great Wall.
The Guest of Honor Takes First Taste
If the guest of honor has not started eating, it is considered rude for others to begin. Just like the guest of honor sits in front facing the entrance—the most prestigious seat at any banquet—they eat first or tell everyone else when to start.
Food is Served Family Style
Food is served in big dishes, which are placed in the middle of a rotating table. The large variety of different foods will give you a great chance to try all sorts of new flavors and ingredients. If you see a dish sitting close to your plate, dig in. The more you try, the better you’ll look in front of your hosts—so be encouraged to try everything.
Also, avoid leaving an empty bowl. One last morsel remaining is polite. Otherwise, your host will think you still have room in your tummy for more food…and will continue to serve you or else feel offended.