In your loudest voice and with your money already in your hand say, “No, no, no…. I will pay!”
Every culture has its own table etiquette – such as elbows off and no burping. However the Chinese in particular have a set of rules that, while often quirky, hold good values important in Chinese culture.
If you are dining with your in-laws or important Chinese businessmen, it would do you good to brush up on some of the more common rules.
Frowned upon in the West, slurping and burping is welcomed with a wide grin and nod of approval from a Chinese host. The louder the slurp or deeper the burp, the better! It indicates a thorough satisfaction with the meal and a genuine appreciation to the host for having you over.
Paying the bill
There exists a friendly ritual to determine who has the privilege to do this, so play by the rules. When it’s time to pay the bill, pull your host’s arm and insist you will. When he says no, yank him back to his seat. Gesticulate wildly and shake your head.
In your loudest voice and with your money already in your hand say, “No, no, no…. I will pay!” Make a scene – he’s counting on it! Even if he looks disgruntled, he is secretly delighted with your good manners.
Leaving your plate empty
While a hearty appetite will show your host just how delicious the meal was, cleaning out your plate completely is a great insult to him – it means he did not provide enough to satisfy you. So remember the implications and leave some morsels of food uneaten.
Accepting food offered
You accepted a piece of meat that was offered to you? What were you thinking? Now your host sees you as just plain greedy. Never accept immediately. Instead politely decline. But keep smiling. He’ll then offer it to you again and again.
By the second or third time, you can graciously accept. He’ll see it as a sign of your modesty and humility. Any sooner and he’ll never invite you over to dinner again.
Use chopsticks correctly
Under no circumstances should you stab your chopsticks vertically into your rice bowl. This is a bad omen as it is the equivalent of sending a death wish to your host. Vertical chopsticks resemble incense sticks in a bowl of sand or rice that one uses to honour ancestors.
Don’t point with your chopsticks either – its plain rude. And don’t tap the chopsticks incessantly on the rim of your rice bowl as this is akin to what beggars do when asking for food. Your host will be gravely insulted.
Don’t be too agreeable
It is common for a Chinese hostess to comment on how her food is not tasty enough or is too salty. It’s an act of humility on her part, the operative word here being ‘act’. It’s all for show. The last thing she would want is having a discourteous guest agree with her. To stay on her good side, just disagree – vehemently! That way, she’ll be truly complimented.
Do not point the spout of a teapot directly at someone – it’s as impolite as pointing a finger. Also, always offer to serve others first before filling your own cup. It shows your consideration for others at the table. And when the pot needs refilling, never completely remove the lid and place it on the table as this is seen as letting good luck escape.