Chinese New Year is coming on Feb. 8 this year, and is the most important holiday for Chinese people. On New Year’s Eve, family members usually get together and have a sumptuous dinner.
If you just received your invitation to a New Year’s dinner, and are feeling nervous about all sorts of rules and taboos in Chinese dinning etiquette, here are eight tips that can help you do the right thing at the table.
1. Don’t tap your foot
Tapping your foot is not only considered rude, but also indicates poverty in Chinese Fengshui. One who taps his foot suggests he’s constantly in a non-steady state, which is thought to be bad for collecting wealth in Fengshui.
There’s even a folk saying: “A man tapping his foot is poor, and a woman tapping her foot is indecent.” Therefore, tapping your foot at the table is impolite.
2. Don’t stick chopsticks straight up in rice
Sticking chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice is a traditional way used by Chinese people to venerate their ancestors. It symbolizes death, and is considered bad luck.
3. Don’t tap your bowl with chopsticks
Beggars at one time tapped their bowls to attract attention, and sometimes in a restaurant customers do the same thing if they think the service is slow. So tapping your bowl can insult your host.
4. Be careful when asking for seconds
If you are learning Chinese, it can be fun to practice it while enjoying delicious food. But be careful when you ask for second helpings in Chinese, because “need rice/want rice” is usually translated to 要飯 (“yào fàn“), which also refers to “begging for food.”
5. Eat with your mouth closed
Not just in China, people in other countries get annoyed by the sound of someone eating with his mouth open. In dining etiquette, this is not only unbecoming, but also bothers people nearby. The same rule applies to drinking tea, soup, and various beverages. Slurping is considered rude.
6. Don’t start eating before your host
In China, guests usually wait until their hosts take the first bite, or invite everyone to start eating. Sometimes the hosts will begin banquets by first serving the guests of honor, and asking everyone else to help themselves. Children need to wait until adults begin to eat.
7. Serve someone else first before you serve yourself
If you serve yourself first you will be considered very rude, and don’t know about manners. So when you want another helping or to refill your drink, offer it to other guests first.
If someone is in a conversation, don’t interrupt but just go ahead and pour the drink into his cup.
8. Don’t leave your hand under the table
Table manners are more than just learning how to use chopsticks. Besides the eight tips listed above, the video below gives you more dining etiquette rules including where to sit to show your respect to your host or guest of honor, how to order, how to pour tea and show gratitude, and how to eat fish, which is a must dish at a Chinese New Year dinner.
Enjoy your food at the coming New Year’s dinner, and use these tips to impress your Chinese friends.
Researched by Monica Song and Cecilia Kwan