The Chinese are very proud people when it comes to their eating and dining etiquette. They sit around their tables and share food like every day is a potluck. If you’re ever invited to a Chinese luncheon or dinner, be prepared for a platter of tantalising food, and better hospitality.
Most people are often unaccustomed to the hospitality when sharing food, but the Chinese have made it a part of their eating habits. They routinely offer extravagant meals even if their purse strings are strained. These are customs which found their origins centuries ago and are unlikely to be washed away soon, even in mainland China. Here are a few common Chinese eating habits explained.
Resting your chopsticks vertically on dishes of any kind, including noodles, is frowned upon in Asian culture. Considered a harbinger of death – as it resembles an incense stick on an altar to the deceased – this gesture is huge faux pas, even though it minimises the transition time between eating and intermittent sipping of tea. Most restaurants provide chopstick stands, so it is best to use them.
Chinese restaurants often serve fish whole. Now, the logical way to eat a whole fish would be to work your way through the tender top and flip it over to do the same on the other side. But this is regarded as impolite, as the gesture symbolizes a capsized boat. Since the fish is the proverbial boat, the gesture of turning it is associated with casting hapless fishermen into the sea. The right way to get to the flesh on the other side would be to pull on the exposed spine and separate the bones from the flesh beneath.
The noodle symbolizes longevity. So the Chinese have made it a tradition to slurp a bowl of noodles as a celebration of the many years ahead. However, it comes with a proviso: never cut the long strip of the noodle, as it symbolizes cutting your life short.
According to Chinese eating habits, a teacup should never be allowed to run dry. Your host, or members of your dinner party, will regularly refill the cups of those around them, who tap the table in response. Go ahead and follow suit, as it is a show of thanks.
Always order an even number of dishes. A rule of thumb is to order dishes equivalent to the number of people in your party, plus one, just to ensure you order enough food, and no one goes hungry. Also, it is based on the belief that an odd number of dishes symbolizes death.
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