bring your own chopsticks?

Old Sep 25th, 2001, 09:14 AM
Posts: n/a
bring your own chopsticks?

Traveling to China in October and a
friend told me that I should bring
my own chopsticks (the cheapie ones
made of wood to throw after each use.)
Wondering if anyone out here has any
thoughts about this suggestion!
Old Sep 25th, 2001, 09:44 AM
Posts: n/a
You'll also need to bring your own bathroom tissue; it's soooo dirty there
Old Sep 25th, 2001, 10:15 AM
Posts: n/a
Everything there seems so dirty. Bring your own food, bathtub, car, airplane so on and so forth.
Old Sep 25th, 2001, 01:03 PM
Posts: n/a
Before I went to the PRC for the first time in 1983, I happened to read Fox Butterfield's book on China. That's when I decided to carry my own chopsticks and I have done so every time that I have gone there. You always know where the chopsticks were the night before. Also, on a more practical level, if your hands are small and if you are not as proficient as the Chinese---and many Americans, for that matter---in the use of chopsticks, having a not-too-long chopstick of wood gives you better grip at both ends. Some restaurants use long plastic chopsticks that I find difficult to manage. P
Old Sep 25th, 2001, 01:13 PM
Peter Neville-Hadley
Posts: n/a
Medical advice has long been fairly consistent in suggesting that you should take your own chopsticks to China. The reason is that a very large number of people in China carry hepatitis in one form or another, and that hygiene standards, while significantly improved from what they once were, are still not high. Chopsticks are often washed in the most casual manner, and are sometimes visibly split or frayed. Small particles of food embedded in the splits may convey diseases.

However, if you are the sort of person who lies awake at night worrying about such things, you probably shouldn't go to China. I haven't taken chopsticks with me for many years, not least because the Chinese government, recognising the health hazard, compelled restaurants nationwide to start using disposable chopsticks, and for a long time it's been unusual to be offered anything else except occasionally in the most up-market of foreign joint-venture hotel restaurants (the kind, one suspects, inhabited by most readers of this site).

The Chinese government, however, will always put its current campaigns before logic or consistency, and while it was appealing to be given the Olympics, bowed to environmentalist concerns by orchestrating a 'voluntary' campaign by 150 Beijing restaurants to save trees by using reusable chopsticks. Only a few of them appear to be doing so, since their customers couldn't care less about the environment when the matter of infectious diseases is considered, and also prefer disposables.

If you are going to be eating exclusively in the kind of up-market establishments favoured by group tours, then you will still usually find disposable chopsticks supplied (the campaign for the Olympics is over now, remember?) If you are eating in regular restaurants you may occasionally be given regular chopsticks, but disposables will almost certainly be supplied if you ask. If not, choose the least chewed, and, if you like, do as you'll see Chinese even in Chinatowns overseas doing, and wash them with tea.

In effect, you now have to make your own choice between trees and hygiene.

In passing, beware of advice from anyone who hasn't been to China for, say, five years or more. China changes so quickly their experiences are almost irrelevant.

Peter N-H
Information about Travel in China
Old Sep 25th, 2001, 03:47 PM
Posts: n/a
I have a question: if chopsticks are not washed properly, do you carry your own dishes, glasses, etc? Toilet paper, towels, soap, dishwashing liquid, household spray, those infection-fighting wipes to use on a phone before you use it? Why bother to travel at all then?
Old Sep 26th, 2001, 12:39 AM
Posts: n/a
If Hong Kong is part of your itinerary, you'll find that many restaurants here don't use disposable chopsticks; the most common type here are the longer faux-ivory plastic ones. Hygiene standards here may be somewhat better than in the mainland, but I don't really want to know what goes on in most HK restaurant kitchens in terms of washing up!

Like Peter, I long ago gave up on using my own chopsticks, either here or in the mainland. It's yet another thing to pack and remember, and it bespeaks a certain preoccupation with personal safety that's likely to undermine the enjoyment of a trip to China, as it would to many non-western countries.

My advice is to make sure you've been vaccinated for Hepatitis A and C, and then just forget about it have a good time.

Old Sep 26th, 2001, 07:20 AM
Posts: n/a
Just back from three weeks in mainland China. We did not bring our own chopsticks and managed to stay healthy. I agree with Peter that it would depend on where one is likely to be eating. Our tour group chose restaurants based on their cleanliness as well as the cuisine. We did carry antibacterial hand wash and wetnaps to use frequently as well as straws to use in canned soda. I am also happy to report that the much anticipated air pollution did not materialize. We had no respiratory problems what so ever. Have a lovely trip and don't worry too much.
Old Sep 26th, 2001, 11:10 PM
John G
Posts: n/a
You people are neurotic. Why not go to China in a plastic bubble?? I can just see Chinese tourists on the Fodor's site in Beijing saying things like, "When you go to New York, bring your own forks and knives because you can get AIDS."
Old Sep 27th, 2001, 11:12 AM
Peter Neville-Hadley
Posts: n/a
Peter Greenberg (NBC, etc.) reports that of a sample of more than 13,500 Americans with an income of US$20,000 or more, 77% said that to find their hotel was dirty would ruin their holiday, and 72% said that dirt everywhere would do the same.

This is a pity, since it automatically rules out travel to much of the rest of the world, including China, and some places in the US, too. There's no point in making a fetish of cleanliness (as Greenberg himself does by recommending that you take a disinfectant spray for use on aircraft toilet seats and washbasin handles, including when you fly within the US), but there's equally no point in not following your usual hygiene regimen when travelling in a place that's dirtier than your home (and with different dirt, mind you), and no point in not taking at least the same hygiene precautions as local people.

Chinese people always peel fruit, and do it with great care not to contaminate the peeled portions. So should you. Chinese people almost never drink tap water without boiling it thoroughly first. You can do the same, or you can be macho about it, submit your digestive system to a horde of bacteria with which it is unfamiliar, and spend three days or more of your two week holiday in close proximity to the toilet.

If it makes sense to wash your hands before eating when at home, then it makes even more sense in a dirty environment, and if hand-washing facilities are not always readily available, then carrying a pack of handwipes (readily available in China because the Chinese also use them) makes sense.

Travelling abroad is a little like posting to this site. Pack the common sense, and leave the rhetoric at home.

Peter Neville-Hadley
Old Sep 27th, 2001, 02:52 PM
Posts: n/a

Did you also write books for Lonely Planet? The name looks so familiar.

Old Sep 27th, 2001, 08:38 PM
Peter Neville-Hadley
Posts: n/a
China guides for another publisher. Articles for Time (Asia edition) and various other magazines and newspapers in the UK, Canada, and Asia.

Peter N-H

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:53 AM.