We had a little break in writing – you might not notice but I try to write once a week and this time it’s little bit late, all because of taxes. SSN, ITIN, federal taxes, applying for working visa – all those things are coming this week and I pretty much hate them. But that gives me a chance to eat out more often with my husband and I love eating. Not love, LOOOOOOVE.
As much as I love eating it’s always a lot of pressure for me – I’m stuck in our Western-Eastern relationship and when I’m eating in Western restaurants I have to remember all those savoir-vivre. When I go to Asian restaurants I have a need to do the same. Some of you might think ‘Why bother? They know you’re not local’, maybe it really doesn’t matter but my inner voice forces me to behave as proper as possible. I guess I was raised with that Chinese concept of ‘face’ (thank you, Dad) and I feel constantly judged, I really care about what people think of my behavior. Not to mention people close to me. Now you should realize how ‘fun’ family dinners are to me.
You think that family meetings are bad? Try dining out with my father in law. He is like a walking stereotype of Cantonese guy, especially when it goes to eating. That’s the type of a ‘rice man‘ – that’s how I call him because for him the center of the whole meal is rice. If rice is not tasty, no matter how good other dishes are, he will dislike that place. He has one restaurant he eats in because he trusts their rice.
Usually he’s very easy-going but mention food and you will see a different face. Even if he doesn’t say it out loud to you he will judge you. Everyone judges, but he is like supreme court of your Chinese table manners.
He knows the rules you cannot so easily Google and he used to beat my husband’s hand with the chopsticks if he didn’t behave. I’ve also noticed older my husband gets more he becomes like his father and he enjoys telling me how to behave. I guess I have a 3rd Daddy (after my real dad and father in law) to teach me some good manners.
To save you all the stress I had to go through and to give you a chance to surprise/impress your partner’s parents/landlord/friends etc. we made a list of things you should remember while dining with Chinese people but you might not know them.
We called it… WAHWAH’S LIST OF GOOD TABLE MANNERS:
- First and the most important WahWah’s rule is do not put your hand above or below someone’s hand while taking the food – wait until the other person grabs his piece and takes his/her hand back. You’re not THAT hungry, you can wait. I hate it, I want my good nom NOW 😉
- You know that you should not play with your chopsticks like it were drumsticks but you shouldn’t also spin them around. It’s not TWISTER game.
- You share your food with others so instead of using your own chopsticks use ‘public chopsticks’ (beautiful phrase made up by WahWah) – they are mouth-water free and let’s keep it that way.
- If you like only a part of the dish it’s more polite to grab a bigger part and look for your favorite meat (or any other part you like) while it’s on your plate than doing the treasure hunting on the ‘public plate’
- Don’t shake your chopsticks if they are wet from soup. I never seen that thing happened in real life but WahWah is more experienced and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened to him.
- Make sure your chopsticks have exactly the same length. You probably heard about this before but I just wanted to mention it so you can realize why you shouldn’t – 三長兩短, traditional Chinese coffins are two short pieces of wood in front and 3 long on a side so basically having one longer and one shorter chopsticks means you’re having coffin. Seems legit.
- Do not spin your table counterclockwise, always spin it to the left. I asked why and the answer was: most of the people use right hand so you can avoid hitting someone sitting next to you in the face.
- If you have a whole piece of food – for example a fish – the front of it should be facing the ‘most respectable’ person, then the oldest, then teacher and the guest – in that order.
- During toasting your cup should be lower than the host’s cup.
- I don’t know if that’s true but all the loud slurp you hear… is actually impolite. It’s OK for ‘small slurp’ when the dish is very hot, but making a ‘big slurp’ and adding ‘aaaahhhh’ at the end is seen bad. Is there anyone who can confirm this?
That list is made with my FIL’s experience and advice – I cannot confirm if all of them are true, maybe something is consider polite in Cantonese part can be impolite at North, maybe it’s just what he sees as polite etc. If you disagree or have any comments feel free to post it!
Is any of those rules considered good/bad in your country? What are the good manners in a place you come from? Do you know any other important rules for Chinese table manners? Share with us, so we can all improve ourselves! 🙂