The main difference between Chinese and western eating habits is that unlike the West, where everyone has their own plate of food, in China the dishes are placed on the table and everybody shares. If you are being treated by a Chinese host, be prepared for a ton of food. Chinese are very proud of their culture of cuisine and will do their best to show their hospitality.
And sometimes the Chinese host use their chopsticks to put food in your bowl or plate. This is a sign of politeness. The appropriate thing to do would be to eat the whatever-it-is and say how yummy it is. If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can just say a polite thank you and leave the food there.
Don't stick your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl.Instead,lay them on your dish. The reason for this is that when somebody dies,the shrine to them contains a bowl of sand or rice with two sticks of incense stuck upright in it. So if you stick your chopsticks in the rice bowl, it looks like this shrine and is equivalent to wishing death upon a person at the table!
Make sure the spout of the teapot is not facing anyone. It is impolite to set the teapot down where the spout is facing towards somebody. The spout should always be directed to where nobody is sitting, usually just outward from the table.
Don't tap on your bowl with your chopsticks.Beggars tap on their bowls, so this is not polite.Also, when the food is coming too slow in a restarant, people will tap their bowls. If you are in someone's home,it is like insulting the cook.
Gan Bei! (Cheers! “Gan Bei” literally means “dry [the] glass”) Besides beer, the official Chinese alcoholic beverage is Bai Jiu,high-proof Chinese liquor made from assorted grains. There are varying degrees of Bai Jiu. The Beijing favorite is called Er Guo Tou, which is a whopping 56% alcohol. More expensive are Maotai and Wuliangye.
Of course, the main difference on the Chinese dinner table is chopsticks instead of knife and fork, but that's only superficial. Besides, in decent restaurants, you can always ask for a pair of knife and fork, if you find the chopsticks not helpful enough. The real difference is that in the West, you have your own plate of food, while in China the dishes are placed on the table and everyone shares. If you are being treated to a formal dinner and particularly if the host thinks you're in the country for the first time, he will do the best to give you a taste of many different types of dishes.
The meal usually begins with a set of at least four cold dishes, to be followed by the main courses of hot meat and vegetable dishes. Soup then will be served (unless in Guangdong style restaurants) to be followed by staple food ranging from rice, noodles to dumplings. If you wish to have your rice to go with other dishes, you should say so in good time, for most of the Chinese choose to have the staple food at last or have none of them at all.
Perhaps one of the things that surprises a Western visitor most is that some of the Chinese hosts like to put food into the plates of their guests. In formal dinners, there are always “public” chopsticks and spoons for this purpose, but some hosts may use their own chopsticks. This is a sign of genuine friendship and politeness. It is always polite to eat the food. If you do not eat it, just leave the food in the plate.
People in China tend to over-order food, for they will find it embarrassing if all the food is consumed. When you have had enough, just say so. Or you will always overeat!
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