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.

Does China have daylight savings time?

China briefly observed daylight savings time from 1986 to 1991, but suspended it in 1992. One important reason for this is that China, the fourth largest country in the world, only has one time zone (UTC+8). Moving the clock an hour ahead would further widen the time differences between the east and west part of China. Here is an account by an American living in Xinjiang.

A List of Unique Chinese Words

There are many words in Chinese that defy translation. Due to their culture-specific nature, these words lack the exact equivalents in English. It is definitely worth the while to understand these words, because they convey so much about Chinese culture.

Each of the listed words is defined in English, followed by its literal meaning and examples.

Guanxi (关系): nepotistic connections (connections). He has Guanxi in the local railway station, I am sure he can get you a few coveted tickets.

Mianzi (面子): feeling flattered by somebody or something (face). We felt we had a lot of Mianzi, because so many important people came to our party.

Hongbao (红包): a small bribe (red envelop). To get a better sickroom, be sure to give the doctor a Hongbao.

Tie Fanwan (铁饭碗): permanent job positions (iron rice bowl) His 20-year Tie Fanwan was smashed when he was laid off by the state-owned factory.

Zou Houmen (走后门): get an unfair favor or advantage (enter through the back door). His father Zou (le) Houmen, so he won the audition quite easily.

Laowai (老外): foreigners, especially westerners (outsider). Look at that Laowai from America, he is so fat.

Hukou (户口): registered permanent residence (household). He doesn’t have a Beijing Hukou, so it is difficult for his son to go to school in that city.

Danwei (单位): any place of employment owned by the state or the Collective Group (unit). She got a sinecure in a Danwei, but she decided to quit and work in a joint-venture company.

An Anti-CNN website?

Some Chinese netizens have launched a site called “anti-cnn.com” to vent their anger toward CNN.

In a CNN report on the turmoil in Tibet dated on March 15, an accompanying picture of the report showed two army trucks on the street in Lhasa. Some Chinese netizens found the original picture from AFP, and condemned CNN for cropping the picture to screen out the rioters stoning the trucks. On the Anti-CNN site, several other western media are also criticized for using the pictures of the Nepalese protests to report what happened in Tibet.

The link to the inflammatory report at CNN.com, which has over 1300 diggs, has been replaced by CNN with the original picture and a different story.

Anti CNN: the original photo

You may want to read the following links to further investigate what is going on and form your own opinion.

1. Anti-CNN.com. Screenshots of some foreign media reports are posted and annotated to “expose the lies and distorted facts in the western media”.

2. ESWN. An analysis of the pictures posted on Anti-CNN and the author’s own opinion: “It won’t do to tell them [Chinese netizens]: Since the your media are rotten, we are surely entitled to suck (but not as much)! “.

3. Xinhua News Agency. A spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to questions about the Anti-CNN website, saying “What the Tibetan incident leaves us is a mirror which tells us the true colours of some in the international community”. This site also posted a commentary saying “Now a word for these Western media: watch out for your credibility crisis.”

4. Danwei. A source of this site reports that CNN was not invited on the journalist junket to Tibet in the aftermath of the Tibetan riots. A post on this site says the anger of the Chinese netizens toward the CNN correspondent in Beijing is “misdirected”.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Squat Toilet

Squatter

1. What is it?

The squat toilet or squatters is a widely used toilet in China. It is basically a porcelain pot built into the floor. Unless you stay only in upscale hotels or restaurants, you are very likely to see and use this kind of toilet in China.

2. The cons of the squat toilet

  • Bad smell. There isn’t much water in this kind of toilet when you go. You only flush it after finishing the business.
  • Muscle strain. For someone who never used it before, expect the strained muscles on both legs after squatting over the pot a few minutes.
  • Not so clean. Restrooms with squatters, unlike the restrooms in hotels or fancy restaurants, are often not so well maintained and cleaned.

3. The pros of the squat toilet

  • Cheap. It costs about one fifth of the regular toilet.
  • Water efficient. The squat toilet does not retain much water after flushing, and it uses much less water than regular ones.
  • Possible health benefits. According to this article, bowel evacuation when seated results frequently in obstructive constipation. This problem can be avoided using a squat toilet.
  • No skin touch. The charm of using a suqatter is that you never have to let your skin touch the toilet like you do with the regular ones. This is a big deal when you have to use the public toilets in crowded places. Actually, Chinese are very reluctant to use regular toilets in public places for fear of contracting skin diseases.

A word of caution: when you are traveling by train in China, be prepared to use the squatters because very few trains have regular toilets.