Rules of table etiquette in China

Rules of table etiquette in China


The old joke says that the only creature on four legs, which the Chinese do not eat – it is a table, but you do not have dutifully chew everything you offer, just in case of failure should find a polite excuse.

Fuchsia Dunlop, author of cookbooks on regional cuisines of China, said that the problems with Chinese feasts are often ethical, because the most expensive dishes that will treat you with welcoming host – shark fin soup and bear paws – endanger the existence of these animals. In mild form warn the hosts about their preferences – in extreme cases refer to an allergy. In addition, there are some basic rules of Chinese feast:

  • The Chinese eat at certain times: lunchtime they noon dinner – six, so you should not deviate from their usual routine. It makes no sense to assign a meal at eight in the evening – it is possible that no one from the restaurant just did not get.
  • The menu here is really very unusual. Even diplomats who have lived for many years in China, recognized that it may not always be easy to decipher. Trying to make the right choice, you can walk around the restaurant to see what others are eating (it is entirely permissible), and specify the waiter at your favorite dishes you.
  • Plug the table, usually provided, but if not, then it is better not to ask. The home team will lose face if they can not give what you need.
  • Unlike neighboring Japanese, the Chinese at the table ceremony. You will hear how they smacked appetizing, put the dice on the table, throw sticks. But you better have a closed-mouth (which is not always easy, especially when Burke chopsticks chicken leg).
  • Never eat up to the end. “If you leave an empty plate, it would mean that the host you put too little food” – warns Martin Trost, author of Lost on Planet China.
  • In an informal atmosphere, where it is unclear who invited whom may be a slight struggle through. Even if it is obvious that you – the inviting party, you have repeatedly insisted, despite the objections of the guests. The easiest way to pay – to beckon a waiter while your companion went to the toilet.
  • Alcohol
  • There are many non-drinking people, but at the same time, China is famous alcoholic excesses, dangerous for a foreigner. So connoisseur wines, surrounded by teetotalers, the result may not drain even one drink, and one who is not accustomed to strong alcohol, but got into a drinking company – lose human form. Fuchsia Dunlop likes to tell about a friend, a businessman, who left Beijing with a diagnosis of “drinking-fever.”
  • Know what you drink. Wherever you were, wherever you came from, you are sure to bring presents baytszyu or – in the best homes and restaurants – Maotai distilled rice vodka. Baytszyu – grain vodka, resembling Russian moonshine, and she knocks down even experienced people.
  • Red wine is all the rage in big cities, but here it is sometimes mixed with Coca-Cola, and Maotai – with green tea.
  • Be able to refuse. Say that are sick or suffer from allergies – you understand, as many Chinese allergies.
  • Cderzhites at the start. Better to give up drinks in the early evening than at the end. Drink only with the owners and principal partners. This will do for a concession, while failure will continue to drink for weakness or lack of confidence.
  • Find a “brother in mind” – a couple will make it easier to share a blow to the liver. If you entertain, you can drink at a time.


In connection with the recent anti-corruption policy in the country techniques become less lush and formal than a decade ago, but some of the principles they need to know:

  • The owner occupies a central place in front of the door, which is often marked by a special folded napkin.
  • At dinner with seating arrangements second-ranking representative of the host country usually sits in front of the host, or in his place at the other table.
  • Most guests are seated according to the posts on the right side of the host, alternating interpreters. James Traub, a famous reporter The New York Times, told me about this, as it once was offended that the Chinese UN representative refused to sit down across from him. It was only later he realized that the sides are sitting in a row.
  • Dishes are usually meant for all, they are divided among themselves. For an official meeting food bought in advance.
  • Food on the plate is applied hosts – shared chopsticks. If you do not like the food, just slide it to the edge of the plate.
  • Toast is made with every sip, but in a specific order: first – the owner, and then – and then the chief guest – descending importance.
  • In polite company teacups (like business cards) serves two hands.
  • After dinner, many ceremonies are not accepted. When the boss says phrase like “I guess you are very tired,” all odds. Sometimes this salvation, because otherwise you have to continue the evening at karaoke.