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Manners Matter on Chinese Dining Table

Why do Manners Matter on Chinese Dining Table?

There is a saying from Confucius that one will not know how to behave properly if he doesn’t learn the manners. China is a country that values manners and etiquette very much since old times. In fact, to judge if a person is moral and virtuous, the first thing is to see his manners in different occasions. People who behave well are often respected by others. In society, a person's manners can reflect his upbringing, which indirectly affects his development. While dining is an important matter in China. There are a lot of etiquette protocols around the dinner table. Knowing them will make you better adaptive to Chinese culture.

Table Setting Etiquette

Generally speaking, the seating arrangements in China abide by two protocols. The seat facing the entrance is the “command seat”. While the seats in the east and left side are the next important ones. If you are sitting around a round table, the seat facing the entrance will be the guest of honor's, who is often decided by the age, social status or occupation. The person sitting on his left side will be more important than the person sitting on his right side. If you are sitting on a square table with eight seats, the guest of honor will sit facing the door and on the right side. If there is no door, he will sit on the right seat in the east side.

If you are attending a dinner party hosted by a Chinese, you just need to follow the host’s lead. If you are not offered to sit in the big chair, don’t be sad: that person is expected to cover the check!

If you are hosting a dinner party with a bunch of Chinese people, you need to get to the place before everyone else arrive and wait nearby the door to usher people to their seats. In case of business dinner and your boss is going to attend, you need to usher your boss to the command seat and invite your most valued client to sit next to your boss on the left. Unless the person next to your boss is extremely important and your boss doesn’t mind, you can usher the guest to the sit in the big chair.


If you are the host of a dinner party in China, it's important for you to wait for most guests and circulate the menu to other guests for them to choose what they like. If you are a guest, you need to respect the host and let him to order first. If the host insists in asking you to order, you can order something not too expensive and common. Remember to ask others for their preferences.

How to Order Dishes?

1. It's common to order one dish per person and you can make extra dishes if there are more men on the table.

2. A dinner is best served if there are vegetarian food, meat, cold and hot dishes. Generally speaking, men like meat food more and women like light veges more.

3. At an ordinary business dinner, the average price for a dish can be 50-80 RMB. If it's an important business dinner, expensive dishes like lobster, fish, abalone or others are necessary.

4. During the ordering, don’t ask the price of the dishes or bargain with the waiter. Otherwise, your guests will think you are cheap.

5. Consider other people’s religion, health, occupation, and eating habits when you make the order.

Preferred Dishes

1. Chinese cuisines are necessary at a dinner if there are Chinese people at the table.

2. Local delicacies are good choices. Each place has its own unique dishes, it's great to have your guests to taste some of them.

3. Speciality of the restaurant may give you a lot of surprises.

Eating Manners

1.Show your respect and keep your phone silenced, off the table and out of your hand.

2.Let the eldest or the highest-ranking person sit and eat first.

3.If you happen to be the guest of honor, other people will wait for you to start.

4.Don’t expect beer or something strong during the meal. You may have some tea.

5.When finding your favorite dish, you can gently rotate the dish to your end and take it. It's not civilized to take a lot at once.

6.Don’t reach out to the seasonings far from you. You may ask others to pass for you.

7.Chew the food slowly, otherwise, others will think you are greedy.

8.You can lift your rice bowl to mouth level with one hand and use the chopsticks to eat with the other hand.

9.Be elegant when you take the food and be careful not to impact your neighbors.

10.Avoid making too much noise during eating.

11.Don't talk when your mouth is full of food.

12.Don’t talk to others or make toast to them when they have food in mouths.

13.Don’t talk about bad things during the dinner.

14.Don't spill the bones and fishbones at the table. Instead, you can put them into a plate.

15.Don't play with the chopsticks and bowls during the meal.

16.Use the serving chopsticks and spoons to take food from the communal bowl or plate.

17.Don’t cough, sneeze, or burp at table.

18.Don’t forget to thank the host after the meal.

19.Don't pick your teeth when other people are eating.

20.Cover your mouth with your hand or a piece of napkin when you pick your teeth.

Rules Regarding Chopsticks

Don't put your chopsticks vertically in your rice bowl. The visual looks too much like the incense sticks burned for dead people.

Don't lick your chopsticks.

Don't hover your chopsticks over different dishes when you are not sure what to have. Decide before you make the move.

Don't take food with your chopsticks when there are grains of rice on them.

Don't cross other people's chopsticks to reach dishes afar.

Don't gesture your chopsticks in the air while talking.

Don’t point your chopsticks directly to people. Angle them slightly.

Don’t stab or poke food with your chopsticks.

Don’t dig around or pick through the dishes for specific ingredients you prefer.

Don’t suck sauce or grains of rice off the ends of your chopsticks.

Drinking Etiquette

Chinese people love drinking over dinner. In fact, many business decisions and cooperation are made during drinking. Here are 5 general details regarding the drinking with Chinese people.

Proposing Toast

1.Make the toast after your host and guests of honor finished making toasts.

2.When you make a toast, stand up, raise your glasses with both your hands, and make sure your glass is lower than that of the person you are making the toast to when clinking the glasses.

3.You may join other people to propose a toast to a specific person, but you can’t make a toast to multiple people at once, unless you are the guest of honor.

4.In case that there is not enough alcohol in the bottle, you can just leave the bottle in the middle of the table and let people pour for themselves.

5.If there is no special person at the dinner, you can just make toasts one by one clockwise.

If you are talked into drinking Baijiu, you are generally expected to empty your glass after each toast and your glass are very likely to be refilled after. Therefore, you can try to return the favor by making toasts to other people.

Having Tea

1. When you pour tea for others, you need to hold the teapot in your right hand and press the teapot lid with your left hand.

2. Don't point the spout of a teapot towards people.

3. Offer and accept tea with both your hands.

4. When you pour tea for others, pour for elder people first and then young people and lastly for yourself.

Leaving the Table

If you have to leave the table during the meal, you need to apologize to the host privately and quietly leave. If you leave with everybody else, you need to go after the host declare that the dinner is over.

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