When you are dining in China, you are going to notice some differences to dining in the West. Sure, one of the first things you will notice is that you will have chopsticks instead of a knife and fork. If you are in a restaurant, chances are they will have a knife and fork available since not all visitors know how to use chopsticks. Something that you might want to do before you leave is learn to use chopsticks the right way. It’s not difficult, but it does take some practice. The Chinese women you meet will be impressed if you know how to use them, but they will always teach you if you are having trouble.
The chopsticks are just one of the differences though. You will also find that when you are dining with others, people don’t just order an entrée for themselves. Instead, the food is typically shared by everyone at the table. You take what you want from the plates and eat until you are full. In the restaurants, as well as at formal family meals, they will often have several courses that encourage cold dishes, as well as hot dishes and soup.
It’s some tasty food, but it might not always be something your taste buds are accustomed to. If you can, try some authentic Chinese food before you leave to visit the country. This will give you a better idea of the type of food you will be eating, and you can find some dishes that you love. If you don’t know what you should order or try, you can talk with the Chinese woman you are dating, and she can help with ordering.
Dining Etiquette in China
There are a few things you should know before even setting foot into a restaurant – or the home of your Chinese date’s family. There are many customs involving fortune – good and bad – in China, and eating is no exception. Some things to keep in mind:
- Turning your fish over symbolizes capsizing the boat, particularly in fishing regions along coastal areas. In order to avoid sending the poor fisherman to his doom in Davy Jones’ locker, you can simply use your chopsticks to carefully remove the backbone in order to access the rest of the meat.
- Poking your chopsticks into your rice in a vertical fashion is considered an omen of death (due to the similarity to the position of incense sticks burned in memorial of the deceased). This is obviously not a concept you want to evoke when you’re trying to impress your Chinese girlfriend. It may seem like the most convenient way to deal with the sticks between bites, however you’re better off using the chopstick stand or simply laying them across the edge of the dish.
- It’s customary to tap the table with two fingers upon the server refilling your teacup. This represents “thank you”, and is particularly invasive in regions with robust tea-drinking cultures. Most areas now also acknowledge the words “thank you” as just as good, so that will do too.
- It’s considered rude to eat before the elders say it’s time, or to begin before they start eating. Only serve from the plate currently in front of you – do not reach across to plates in the middle of the table.
- You won’t find knives at a Chinese dining table – they are viewed as a sign of violence. You will, however, be able to request a fork if your chopstick skills aren’t quite honed yet.
While it might seem small, dining and understanding the differences between Western and Chinese culture is important. Again, if you have questions, ask the Chinese woman you are dating before you visit.