10 tips for eating out and not offending in China

Here are our top tips for respecting Chinese dining etiquette  

  • Never point or gesticulate with your chopsticks.
  • Never rest your chopsticks by inserting them into a bowl of rice – it is reminiscent of incense sticking into a grave.
  • When clinking your glass with someone to say “cheers” or “gan bei”, never have the lip of your glass higher than theirs. If you want to show respect to a business partner this is very important – go to any length to ensure your glass is lower than theirs, even if it touches your food!
  • Again, to show respect to someone in particular, seat them in the furthest position from the door. Historically this was the safest place should any attackers have burst into the room.
  • Allow the important or older people to eat first.
  • If you are the guest, choose a moment to make a small speech and again cheers your drinks – it doesn’t matter if this is at some random moment half way through the meal and matters even less if you’re talking in a language no one else understands – they’ll get the gist when you raise your glass.
  • If you truly want to pay the bill and not just make a show of wanting pay the bill, discretely sneak off to pay the bill before the end of the meal, otherwise you’ll end up fighting with the host to pay.
  • Pay attention to the number of dishes you order. Side dishes don’t matter, but the ‘main’ hot dishes should be an even number. Of course you don’t want to over order, but 8 is a very good number if possible.
  • In some cultures you virtually lick your plate to show the host respect for their fabulous cooking; in others you leave food on the plate to show they have been overwhelmingly generous. China is the latter. Never leave your plate empty.
  • If inviting Chinese people out for dinner, be aware that, generally, they like to eat at 6:00pm sharp.