The Chinese Table Manners

When you eat with Chinese people, the general rule of thumb is: just enjoy your food and don’t worry too much about the table manners. Still, the following tips may prove helpful when you are in China:

  • It is quite alright to smack the lips or make “noises” when eating.
  • Use two hands when passing things to other people (such as dishes or cups).
  • Nobody licks the fingers. Chinese never lick their fingers.
  • Don’t stick the chopsticks upright inside the bowl of rice (it is a funeral ritual).
  • You can lift the bowl up and eat from it. This avoids dropping the rice on the table.

You may also want to know:

  • The more distinguished the guests are, the more dishes are prepared or ordered.
  • Chinese don’t put ice in their drinks. Chilled drinks are considered bad for the stomach.
  • Daily consumption of soft beverage is considered unhealthy, especially for kids.
  • Generally you don’t have to pay tips in restaurants and the service is good.
  • “Desserts” are sweet soup or fruit, not pies or cakes.
  • There is no legislation to limit alcohol consumption in China. Alcoholism barely constitutes a social problem there.
  • Chinese don’t drink unboiled tap water. Boiling tap water is a sanitization process and a must-do for preparing tea.

If you are curious to know why Chinese don’t mind noisy eaters, read the reason here. Of course, there are exceptions to every cultural rule, and some Chinese do mind noisy eaters.

3 Replies to “The Chinese Table Manners”

  1. “Boiling tap water is a sanitation process and a must-do for preparing tea.” How the Hell are you supposed to make tea with cold water? Boiling water for sanitation seems pointless, anyway, now that tap water is treated.

    1. Tap water in different countries are treated to meet various standards. The majority of Chinese are taught not to drink tap water directly. Don’t you think boiling water can kill the germs inside?

      1. Our Chinese house guests (we live in Canada and our local water supply is very good) always boil the kettle before a meal and then drink the warm or room temperature water. They told us that no one in Hong Kong drinks water from the tap as it is considered unhealthy.

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