13 Taboos to Avoid When Using Chopsticks

Chopsticks have been a part of Chinese life since ancient times. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Chopsticks have been a part of Chinese life since ancient times. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Chopsticks have been a part of Chinese life since ancient times. Chopsticks come with customs and rules of proper usage. These rules are very particular, but are followed quite naturally by Chinese who grow up with them.

To start, lay your chopsticks together on the right side of the bowl before the dishes are served. After the meal, lay them together down the center, on the top of your bowl.

Chopsticks come with customs and rules of proper usage. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)

Chopsticks come with customs and rules of proper usage. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Now, develop your chopstick mastery by avoiding these 13 taboos:

  1. Doubt: Don’t twirl your chopsticks in the air while you decide what to pick up.
  2. Mess: Don’t rummage through a serving dish, poking and nudging food around with your chopsticks. Pick a piece and stick with it.
  3. Illegal sticking: No chopstick drumrolls or using your chopsticks to point at anything other than the food.
  4. Collisions: Don’t go after the delicious bite of food that is already held in someone else’s chopsticks, causing chopstick to collide.
  5. Stabs: Don’t use a chopstick as a fishing spear and pierce a piece of food to pick it up.
  6. Respect: After finishing the meal, guests and youngsters must wait for the hosts and elders to set their chopsticks aside before they do.
  7. Biting: No matter how good the meal, don’t bite or suck the chopsticks.
  8. Dripping: When fetching food from the serving dish, mind that the sauce doesn’t drizzle the table on the way to your plate.
  9. Slice and dice:  Don’t use your chopsticks as a sword to split a piece of meat or other food. If necessary, get the chef to bring a knife.
  10. Worship: Sticking chopsticks into a dish or a bowl of rice and leaving them horizontally standing is bad. It’s only done during religious rites and to worship the dead.
  11. Giant toothpicks: Don’t use your chopsticks to reach in and pull a piece of food back out of your mouth. And don’t use them for picking your teeth.
  12. Sticky business: Don’t pick up more food if there is still food matter stuck to your chopsticks, yet to be shaken off into your rice bowl or onto your plate.
  13. Repeat performance: Picking up food from the same serving dish more than three times in a row isn’t nice. Let someone else get a taste. There are many dishes on the table. You can try something new.

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our weekly email

Have You Ever Wondered Why Jade Is Considered So Precious?
4 Tips for Staying Safe While Traveling in China