In Western society, a person is harshly judged on their etiquette, and how they conduct themselves at the dinner table is no exception. An individual’s table etiquette reflects on their personal habits and their upbringing as a child. A friend once told me about an experience at work while recruiting new staff members.
A qualified university graduate student was well received during the interview process, but when it came to a social gathering later that evening over dinner, he talked with his mouth full and dropped food all around his place setting. My friend told me that his qualifications were excellent, but he was not the right fit when it came to the culture of the company.
Whether applying for a position or having dinner with colleagues or clients, appropriate conversation and refined body language are just another letter of recommendation. The way you sit at the table, your manners while eating, the tone of your voice, and how you inject yourself into the conversation all speak volumes about your upbringing as a child.
“Those who are good at observing and judging from a meal will be able to understand the background of the parents’ life and the person’s education.”
I also recall attending a friend’s house warming dinner and was seated next to a women who had recently arrived from Mainland China along with her son, who was around five years old. Just as everyone was seated at the table, the boy jumped down from his chair and started to run around the dinning room.
When the host arrived with the meal, his mother shouted loudly at him to return to the table. Before the dinner was finished, she started tipping the remaining food into some containers that she had bought with her, declaring: “I want this food!”
“A child’s behavior is a reflection of the parents character” is a famous saying. Children are influenced by their parents and will follow their examples.
I was with a small tour group in China that included a boy who was around 8 years old. At a restaurant that we visited, he immediately grabbed the menu and started to order food before everyone was seated. During the meal, while his father sat passively next to him, he slouched in his chair and played with his phone while his mother put food into his mouth. Needless to say, the Westerns at the table were shocked by this behavior.
Lin Qingxuan, a Taiwanese writer, once said that his father taught him to always judge a person’s character when selecting them as a friend, and the best way to determine their character is to notice how they handle a pair of chopsticks over dinner.
Table etiquette, to some Chinese parents, is not crucial. They argue that their children are still small, so why be so critical at such a young age? In response to this, I recall an old Chinese proverb:
“A child is like a tree and if you want it to bloom and bear fruit, you must trim the branches, give it plenty of water and fertilizer, and kill the pests. Only then is everything ready to help the child grow properly and bear fruit.”
Translated by: Chua B.C. and edited by Kathy McWilliams.
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