Five Tips For Proper Etiquette with Chopsticks in China

During your first meal in China, you will realize that the main utensil used during meals is chopsticks. When I first moved to China, it was the first time I ever used chopsticks in my life.

The use of chopsticks requires proper etiquette, and when you pick up your chopsticks, you join in a cultural experience. It’s important to go into your dining experiences in China with some knowledge about to have good manners the chopsticks.

Here are five tips for using chopsticks in China:

1. One important piece of etiquette when using chopsticks is to never knock any dishes such as plates and bowls with your chopsticks.  In Chinese culture, the meaning of hitting your dishes with chopsticks traces to beggars and homeless. This is viewed as negative and rude at the dinner table.  If Chinese children do this, they will be scolded by their parents or not allowed to eat.

2. When you are eating food with chopsticks, especially with rice, do not stick your chopsticks into your food or rice. This is seen as a curse in Chinese culture. This is taboo and said to bring bad luck because it reminds people of the incense used a funeral. Out of respect, you especially do not want to do this as a guest in someone else’s home. Instead, simply lie your chopsticks together and flat across your plate or bowl.

3. Whenever you are out to a meal with family or friends, and you want to hand someone else chopsticks, you want to double check the chopsticks: make sure the two chopsticks are equal in length, same colors, and same materials.  This is a sign of respect and table manners at the dinner table.

Chopsticks Etiquette

4. It viewed as very rude in Chinese culture to point at people with chopsticks.  This is similar to the rude action of pointing to a person or something with one finger in China.  To avoid this, keep your chopsticks relatively low to the table when picking up and eating food.

5. When eating a meal and perhaps being indecisive, you cannot use chopsticks to pick up food randomly that you do not intend to eat.  In other words, you cannot pick up a piece of food from a shared plate and then put it back down. If you touch the food, you must follow through with it!

Eating with chopsticks may be something different and out of your comfort zone, but it is not a difficult feat with practice.  As long as you are aware of the etiquette involving chopsticks, you will be ready to properly and politely feast on delicious Chinese food!

Want to learn more about Chinese people and culture? Check out my blog on Five Important Tips When Meeting People in China!