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Etiquette Tips at Chinese Restaurants

Traditional, elite Chinese restaurants have strict culinary rules and etiquette when it comes to eating and serving food.

When you walk into these restaurants, you should be respectful and follow dining customs that are akin to the Chinese culture.

Here are a few etiquette tips to keep in mind when you are dining in a true, authentic Chinese restaurant. 

Chinese food

Allow Your Host to Order

Generally, there is a host who will assist you with your order.

In a traditional Chinese restaurant, the menu may be written entirely in Chinese, and you may need to allow your host to order for you.

This is a sign of respect.

Don’t worry; from delicious vegetable egg rolls to Peking duck, they will usually order quite the selection!

Eat and Drink What is Placed in Front of You

When you dine in a real Chinese restaurant, it is a sign of respect and courtesy to eat the foods and to drink the beverages placed in front of you.

This actually honors your family, as it indicates that you were brought up well.

Keep in mind that up to ten courses may be served to you, and it is rude not to try them all.

Therefore, arrive at the restaurant hungry and ready to eat. 

Understand How Food is Served

In Chinese tradition, the host begins to serve the eldest individuals at the table regardless of gender.

The host serves individuals according to their age from oldest to youngest.

The host serves himself or herself last. This is true for both food and tea.

In some Chinese restaurants, you may be offered soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and other condiments on the side.

In true Chinese custom, however, condiments are generally only added to the soup. 

Tea at Your Meal is Traditional

Even if you are not a tea drinker, you should be prepared to drink tea with your meal.

This is a traditional beverage that is served with almost every meal.

There are many types of tea that you may be offered, including pu-erh, jasmine, and chrysanthemum to name a few. 

If you pour tea, you will lift the handle with one hand and hold the lid down with the other hand.

If you run out of tea while pouring from the kettle, it is customary to leave the lid tilted or even by placing it upside down. 

When drinking tea or even when raising the teacup for a toast, it is customary to hold the cup with two hands.

This shows respect to all at the table. 

Standard Etiquette During the Meal  

Anytime someone serves you a course or pours your tea, it is customary to show appreciation.

Rather than say thank you, the proper and traditional way to show appreciation in Chinese dining culture is to tap the table lightly with two fingers. 

If you are invited to a traditional Chinese meal as a date, it is customary to allow your date to serve you.

Likewise, if you invited the other person, you should serve him or her. 

Chopsticks are the customary utensils used.

When utensils are not available for serving purposes, always use the back end of the chopsticks.

Never leave your chopsticks sticking up straight out of your rice bowl. 

By the way, rice is generally not a meal in itself, and instead, it is used to cleanse the palate.

It may be eaten in between bites when food is too spicy or salty for your liking.


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