As part of ancient Chinese diet culture, Chinese table manners are the traditional styles that are used for eating in the country. Unlike the West, where everyone has their own plate of food, in China the dishes are placed on the table and everybody shares. In most dishes in Chinese cuisine, food is cooked in bite-sized pieces and easy to hold and eat. Therefore, chopsticks are used at the table instead of forks and knives. Below are some basic eating manners that one should pay attention to when eating in China.
Honorable people would take the seats of honor, and humbler ones then sit according to status; elders sit facing the best direction; and teachers seat themselves in a place of honor relative to their students. When sitting at a rectangular table, elders sit at the shortest side of the table, against the back wall of the room and facing the door, then the others judged by their ages sit from inside to outside; in the case of a round table, the most inside seat is left for the elder to show his venerability.
Ordering and serving
Someone will order all the dishes or a collective decision will be made, and the restaurant's specialty is usually ordered. Dishes are placed in the center of the round table, and everyone helps themselves to the plate. Dishes will be served according to the order they are cooked, so often it comes quickly one after the other.
You are not obligated to take any dish if you do not like it. It's free and easy for all. Obviously, it will be inconsiderate to eat too much of everything. There is a common understanding of sharing with everyone. And sometimes the host will serve some dishes with his or her own chopsticks to guests to show his or her hospitality. This is a sign of politeness. The appropriate thing to do would be to eat the whatever-it-is and say how yummy it is. If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can just say a polite "thank you" and leave the food there.
Some taboos in Chinese table manners
1. Never stick your chopsticks upright in the rice bowl, lay them on your dish instead. Otherwise, it is deemed extremely impolite to the host and seniors.
2. One shouldn’t point the mouth of the teapot to others. This has the same meaning of using the finger to point to somebody, that’s very impolite to the one that be pointed. Therefore, the spout should always be directed to where nobody is sitting, usually just outward from the table.
3. Never tap on the bowl with your chopsticks, because that will be considered as the insulting behavior to the host or the chef.