Dinner in China – Always be Prepared When Going Out
I can remember the first time I was invited out for a dinner in China. It has been the early 2000’s, I was in my early 20’s, and I by nature, I was expecting dinner to be exactly like it was in NY! I mean, when I thought about it, I had many friends in New York, had had dinner in there homes, but nope! Dinner in China is a real adventure, a real treat, and some awesome food. I’ll be writing about many kinds of meals, dinners, meanings by dinners, proper placement of seating, who eats first, who eats last, uh-oh I don’t know how to use chopsticks, do I need to drink beer or smoke, and so so so much more.
But, that first dinner… coming into the well lit room with a large round table in the middle with a lazy susan on top, couches on the side, a Mar Jong table on the other side and a TV playing in the front? Not exactly what I had expected, but certainly was a dinner I’ll never forget! Oh, and I do tell the whole story in another post, so be sure to check back!
These are some great tips and suggestions for your dinners. A quite FYI, not all these “rules” apply all the time, but I would follow these rules as my guidelines for all dinners I attended. But, as mentioned above, their will be plenty more!
You might feel confused as to why you need to be prepared when all you will be doing is going out to dinner in China, but you have to keep in mind that you are in an unfamiliar foreign country and you have to observe the rules, customs and traditions of the country you are traveling in. This is why it is always best to be prepared and bring all that you need so that you do not get any unpleasant surprises along the way.
As a tourist and an American citizen, I totally understand why some of the rules may seem really odd; Chinese culture and their rules are different from the culture and rules we follow in the United States of America. I have listed some of the dining etiquettes that you need to observe while having Dinner in China:
- Always bring cash.
Credit cards are not always accepted in different Chinese restaurants, which is why it is best to avoid embarrassment when you are paying for a good meal. You should always have some amount of cash with you so that in case you are faced with a situation like this, you can pay the restaurant in cash. Never depend on credit cards in China because they either do not work or are not accepted in different restaurants.
- If Invited to Dinner, Bring a Gift
Yes, that is necessary. If someone invites you to have dinner in China with them, it is mandatory and a sign of good manners for you to bring the host something of significance. It can be a token present such as flowers, wine or anything such as that, but it says a lot about your nature and your gratitude. This is one way of showing that you are pleased to be invited and that you are thanking the host for inviting you to dinner.
You also have to take care of basic Chinese etiquettes when you are having dinner in China.
You have to be mindful of things that they consider important so that you do not seem rude to them. Here is a checklist so that you can be on your best behavior when you are dining with your Chinese friends.
- While it is normally considered rude to put your elbows up on the table whilst eating, in China it is considered perfectly normal.
- Never be late for a meal.
- Never sit in any random place, instead wait for the host to assign you a seat.
- Let the older people eat first as it is a sign of respect to them.
- You should not only refill your own bowl with rice but also proceed to refill other’s plate whilst asking them if they need refills. Elders like to be offered refills by the younger people on the table.
- Close your mouth and swallow soundlessly so you seem more civilized. Chinese people have no patience for ill-mannered people on the table.
- Do not hold your chopsticks in such a manner in which your index finger or your middle finger points toward the guests as this can be misconstrued as something obscene or offensive.
- Do not spear your food with chopsticks under any circumstances.
I know this seems like a lot for dinner in China, but don’t worry or sweat even an ounce because I have tons more tips to offer so you don’t feel lost for a millisecond!
Plus, these are super quick tips to pick up, they’re often shown to you when you arrive, and most Chinese guests will not take offense if anything above is missed. Chinese are very happy to show why. But, having Dinner in China is filled with more subtleties, and each one of them is like adding a point onto a checklist Chinese keep in there minds.
But! Most important of all! Have fun! The food is fantastic, many sorts of varieties and most does not look like what we have back in America.
Be sure to check back for more posts. Is it true tea is served all over the country? Well…. Or, rice is the staple food, right? Not really… And why is chicken served first and fish last? Or one of my favorites, did he REALLY just eat the whole fish??? Why? And, do I really need to eat that???
Oh, and why do locals tap two fingers when tea is being poured?