China has long been known as a nation of rites. People attach importance to politeness, courtesy and comity on any formal occasion, whether it is a wedding ceremony, a celebration party, or a banquet. Traditional Chinese customs have even spread throughout East Asia. As they say, When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The following basic table manners will help you initially master the Chinese dinner etiquette and ensure a pleasant dining experience.
1. The typical seating arrangement is a part of Chinese dining etiquette. That is to say the respectable members, usually the elders or the guest of honor are given the best place – the place at the head of the table. It is discourteous to seat guests at the place where the dishes are served.
2. Dinning may only begin provided both the hosts and guests are seated. To better serve the small groups of guests, square dining tables are more often used than rectangular tables to permit easy sharing.
3. All the food is to be shared, except your own bowl of rice. The dishes are placed in the center of the table, and everyone can feel free to help yourself. Please remember not to make any noise when chewing the food.
4. Respect the chopstick, and you should not lick chopsticks, use them to stir up the food, point them at others, or even worse, stick them in the middle of the rice bowl. While waiting for the next course of dish, the chopsticks should be put on the chopstick rest.
5. Tea is usually served in a formal Chinese dinning. The one sitting closest to the teapot should pour tea for others. When the tea is served one should say “thank you” or make a gesture of thanks. However, the host should not let guests pour tea.
6. Make a toast to the senior. Conventionally, the host will make a first toast to everyone present to start the dining. When someone toasts you, you should immediately stop eating and drink to accept and toast in response. Toasts will continue to be made throughout the dinner. However, it is impolite to urge others to drink.
7. It is ok for you to stand up and reach for your food, if there is not a lazy Susan. When the dinner is over, the host will stand up and offer the final toast. Guests are expected to leave immediately thereafter.
8. Dress cheerfully When you are invited to a Chinese New Year party or a wedding ceremony (completely in black is not a wise choice).
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