Wednesday, July 2, 2014


It is our custom in a school canteen/cafeteria to look for someone to eat with; anyone, stranger or friend. Quite often our lunch partner would ask me, "How long have you been in China?" There would always be a look of surprise to learn the short time we'd been in China because my command of chopsticks seemed so natural and skilled. Even John, who struggled at first, got the hang of it and looks comfortable using chopsticks.  It's one thing to know how to use chopsticks and quite another to use them properly in public. One is judged on one's chopstick etiquette, even though uninformed foreigners are given a small measure of forgiveness. I have to admit, I was guilty of a few chopstick faux pas before I got educated. It's natural for people like me who speak with their hands, to 'speak' with their chopsticks during dinner conversation….oops.

Both Cheris and Olive gave presentations about chopsticks. They set us straight and made us better Chinese guests.

In Chinese cuisine, food is cooked in bite-sized pieces and easy to hold and eat. Therefore, chopsticks are used at the table instead of forks and knives. There are some rules for correct use of chopsticks that are suggested you follow to make your stay in China happier, though you will be forgiven if you have no idea of what they are:

  • Never stick or leave your chopsticks upright in the bowl of rice. This resembles ritual incense burning and implies feeding the dead and death in general. Thus, it is deemed extremely impolite to the host and seniors present.
  • Do not tap on your bowl. Beggars tap on their bowls to attract attention, and also, when the food is coming too slow in a restaurant, people will tap their bowls which insults the host or the cook.
  • Treat chopsticks as extension of your fingers. It is impolite to use them to point at other people or wave them around.
  • Do not impale food with chopsticks. 
  • It doesn't matter if you hold chopsticks in the middle or at the end, but you should make sure the ends are even.
  • Do not chew the ends of chopsticks or pick teeth. They are likely going to be washed and reused. 
  • Chopsticks are not used to move bowls or plates.
  • One should not 'dig' or 'search' through one's food for something in particular. This is sometimes known as "digging one's grave" or "grave-digging" and is extremely poor manners.
  • When eating rice from a bowl, it is normal to hold the rice bowl up to one's mouth and use chopsticks to push or shovel the rice directly into the mouth.
  • It is considered poor etiquette to point rested chopsticks towards others seated the table.
  • Resting chopsticks at the top of the bowl means "I'm finished." Resting chopsticks on the side of one's bowl or on a chopstick stand signifies one is merely taking a break from eating.
  • Chopsticks should not be used upside-down. However, it is  acceptable to use them backwards to stir or transfer the food to another plate if the person does not intend to eat it and there are no serving chopsticks.
  • Holding chopsticks incorrectly will reflect badly on a child's parent, who have the responsibility to teaching their children.

1 comment:

  1. How do I rest the chopsticks on the side of my bowl (or the chopstick stand even) and not have them point at the person across the table?