Taking time to learn Chinese table manners could pay dividends-and avoid red faces!
The wary Westerners could be forgiven for being bamboozled by some of the customs which are second nature to Chinese people gathered round the dinner table.
But refusing to pick up the chopsticks and learn by experience is a big mistake which will leave you culturally impoverished – and missing out on some of the world’s best food!
However, it pays to take heed of Chinese people’s distinctive table manners to avoid any culinary clangers.
All family members of a household will consider an expatriate to be their most distinguished guest. As a result, the expat’s seat will be put next to the chair of the eldest member of the highest generation in the family hierarchy.
Instead of serving dishes individually as in Western countries – where everyone relishes his or her own portion of food on a single plate – Chinese people are accustomed to sharing food from a number of dishes spread in the center of the table.
So, each person sitting around the table will poke his or her chopsticks into these common plates to pick up their favorite food.
Sometimes, in order to show their friendship and sincerity, Chinese hosts will also pick from dishes with their own chopsticks or spoons for you, depositing the food on your Plate.
In most eases, Chinese people do not care whether they conform to Westerners’ habits or not.
However, this particular custom leaves some foreigners a little uneasy.
Moreover, you might be perplexed by a dilemma If you eat up the food, you could feel a little queasy, being” unaccustomed to the use of personal “cutlery” – or in this case chopsticks – to serve you. Then again, refusing to eat the food is likely to offend your friends.
How to cope with such an awkward situation?
In order to avoid the predicament, you can thank your friends for their kindness and then tell them that you can help yourself.
There’s something else you should also prepare for…
While sampling the delicate dishes, Chinese friends will bombard you with a number of questions because generally they will be very curious about you.
Because off the difference of cultural background, some of these questions seem awkward, even an invasion of privacy in the eyes of some Westerners.
But, the way Chinese people see it, these questions are simply the manifestation of friendship.
Some of such questions are simply a way of showing concern towards or interest in the guest.
That can include such queries as: “How old are you?;” “Hew much is your monthly salary?” and “How is your husband (or wife)?”
If a question leaves you bristling, think twice and try not to be offended. Perhaps the best way to deal with such awkward situation is to make a clean breast of all the facts.
And be warned: If some stubborn Chinese friends with inquiring minds are dissatisfied with your answers, they will not stop until they get to the bottom of every question!