Dinner Etiquette in China

May 13th, 2005, 07:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 16
Dinner Etiquette in China

My Fiancé and I are going to South East Asia and China on Honeymoon for 10 weeks this summer, and are leaving on the 23 of May. My former Modern China teacher will be in Beijing China during the same time as us and he invited us to share dinner with him, his wife, and their Chinese family in Beijing. I was wondering if I should bring a gift to the family, and what are some rules that we should follow so we will not embarrass our self in front our Chinese guests. Any help would be appreciated.
jonathanrhunt is offline  
May 13th, 2005, 09:05 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 215
Some of these are just common table manners but many Chinese play by them:
- Always take the piece of food closest to you on a plate to avoid looking like you're trying to pick the best piece (sign of greed/selfishness). This also applies to fish - reach for the part of the whole fish that is nearest you. Often a courteous host will tell you to reach for the biggest/best pieces. Continue to reach for the nearest piece to display your own courtesy.
- For poultry e.g. chicken, duck and goose, the drumstick esp. the left one (I never knew how to tell) is considered the best part. Do not reach for that even if it's closest to you. Allow the host to offer that to you.
- Do not ask for or add soy sauce or salt to anything, or risk implying that a dish is not tasty enough. Certain dishes are meant to be eaten with added pepper or vinegar, so follow the lead of the host to add those.
- Do not ask for rice if you don't see any (or if no one else is having any). It risks implying that you're not satisfied with the dishes presented and rather get filled up with rice.
- While in western dining, soup is optional or by choice, in a chinese dinner everyone has soup. and if the host offers you a second bowl, do not turn it down. The soup is often the most time/labor-intensive, taking hours or even over-night to prepare, so show appreciation of the host/cook's hard work by having seconds.
- Be forward you may see heads of animals presented e.g. chicken or fish heads. Try to refrain from making comments that it is somehow strange.
- beside animal heads, I know many westerns also don't like to see or eat meat with skin attached (e.g., fish skin or chicken skin). Try to tough it out and eat it, don't peel it off, it'll be seen as a waste.

The above "rules" are on the safe side to avoid insulting a more sensitive host, and assume that dinner is at someone's home, not a restaurant. Most people are quite relaxed about things and they'll be delighted to have you as dinner guests, so don't let these "rules" stress you out, it'll be fine.
flatfeet is offline  
May 15th, 2005, 12:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 95
Yes, a hostess gift is certainly appreciated when invited to dinner and don't be surprised when you're gifted in return. On a recent China trip, we visited with some of mother's brothers and sisters whom I have never met in Shanghai. My parents advised us to purchase some duty free brandy and whiskey as gifts for the men and makeup for the women - e.g. Estee Lauder, Lancome.
DMary is offline  
May 15th, 2005, 12:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Don't know how good your chopsticks skills are, but if you decide to use them, don't point them at others' faces.

And if you're very good in your chopsticks skills, but the host offer you a fork, don't get offended. You can still use your chopsticks, and just put aside the fork.

But basically as flatfeet says, just accept whatever you're offered, and you'll be fine!
rkkwan is offline  
May 16th, 2005, 05:30 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 671
I remember reading somewhere you should always bring a gift for your host!
dperry is offline  

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