Table Manner

The Chinese prefer to entertain in the public places rather than in their homes, especially when entertaining foreigners. If you are invited to their house, consider it a great honor. If you must turn down such an honor, it is considered polite to explain the conflict in your schedule so that your actions are not taken as a slight.

Seating place sequence should be pay attention to, just look at follow principles:

Right is the honor guest and the left is the opposite. It is just the opposite of the western culture. The reason is that the Chinese food is always served by a clockwise direction, so the guests on the right can be cared more.

Center seat is the most honorable: When three are dining together, the person in center position is higher than the people in the seats on both sides.

The seat facing the door: According to etiquette practices, when having dinner, the better seats are those facing the main entrance.

Better seats facing the landscape in the exclusive restaurants, there usually have elegant and beautiful scenery or the performances indoor which is for diner viewing. So the best viewing angle for watching is the best seat.

Best seats are besides the platform: If there have special platform in banquet hall, the table which closes to the platform is the main dining table.

What we have to pay attention to is that in the formal bouquet, the tables should be in the same direction.

If it is a party, the direction of the honor guest in each table should maintain the same direction with host table.

Chinese table manner


General advice:

Wait to be seated. Never sit at the head of a table unless you are instructed to do so.

Never take food, or eat before an older person at the table.

If you ever take out a napkin for yourself, be sure to pass napkins to everyone at the table.

If you hold your bowl, palm the bowl from the bottom. Your fingers or thumb should never touch the lip of the bowl. Holding the bowl is acceptable, but is more casual. In a business setting, do not hold your bowl while eating.

When you do take food, place it on top of your rice. Never mix your food with your rice. Never take more than one item at a time.

Soups are usually eaten last. Wait until you have nearly finished eating and then plan for the soup to be the last thing you eat.

Try the fried bees and pig brain. Most of the “crazy” food items are pretty good. Pig brain tastes like creamy tofu. Fried bees taste like crunchy chips.

If you eat at a Muslim restaurant in China, never ask for any pork dishes or even mention the word pigs. It can, and most likely will upset the owners and other patrons. Most of the Muslims in China are part of the Huizu ethnic minority. Their cuisine is off-the-charts good. If you are lucky enough to eat at one of their restaurants, try the squash, the beef soup, the spicy dried beef, or the stomach linings.

Sometimes a guest will bring a friend, unannounced. This isn’t a big deal, because there is always enough food for a few extra people.

A dinner can last hours. You’ll hear “man man che” a lot, and that translates to “slowly, slowly, eat.” Don’t scarf food down, and don’t only eat the dishes you like.

Chinese people may leave a lot of food behind at the table. Most of the time this food is recycled and fed to pigs, so don’t worry about waste.

The more you eat, the happier your host will be. If you eat a small amount, especially if someone made a home-cooked meal, you may insult your host.

Never let anyone still eating feel rushed to finish their meal.

It is okay to answer your phone at a table, absolutely no one will care.

In a home setting, if you want to wash the dishes, never take any dishes away from the table unless it is clear that everyone has finished eating. If you do this, it is a cue to your guests that you want them to leave.

Chinese people love to walk, or “san bu” after they eat, they say it helps with digestion. 

The Bill

If you have been invited to eat, you can make an attempt to get the check, but don’t actually pay the bill as you may lose the other party’s face. If someone calls you to go out, they are expected to pay. Nonetheless, fighting over the bill is always a good way to gain points.

Don’t ever try to give the host 50% of the bill to “pay your half”. In China, as stated just above, whoever is inviting someone out to eat is expected to pay for everyone. If you want to immediately return the favor, offer to take the person who paid out to a bar, karaoke, or to drink tea.

Stand up and start pulling the host by the arm and try to yank him back to his seat. Arm waving and arm pulling is always good.

If they manage to pay the waiter first, grab their money out of the waiter’s hand and give it back them, then give the waiter your money instead.

The bigger the scene you cause the better. Don’t worry if they seem disgruntled, they actually will be delighted with your enthusiasm. 


Related Reading

  • Chinese etiquette
  • Greeting people
  • Table manner
  • Home visit 
  • Gift