Chinese culture: Eating and Drinking
Learn about the Chinese culture and be prepared for China
Many of you have heard of the infamous xiaolongbao (Shanghai), Peking duck (Beijing) and spicy Sichuan, ChongQing food. China certainly has a wide range of food dishes and interesting delicacies that have become popular internationally. This has also attracted many people from around the world to come have a “taste of China”. Though, before arriving in China, it is important to learn and understand the eating/drinking practices as they are quite different to Western culture.
1. Dishes are shared
In contrast to the West, eating in China is more of a communal activity where friends and families gather around the same table to eat from several dishes of food usually accompanied by your own small bowl of rice. The Chinese culture values collectivism and will generally like to communicate with each other on the dining table.
2. Placing food in your bowl
As mentioned above, the idea of forming bonds and connections whilst eating is important. Hosts of the table will likely place food in your bowl as a sign of hospitality and bringing the relationship closer. Some other cultures may see this as a violation of personal space, however to the Chinese; this is their way of showing acceptance and affection.
3. Table manners
During occasions where it is a group setting at a restaurant or big family gathering, it is polite to wait for the eldest person to start eating first. Most Chinese people use chopsticks to eat, so it is a good idea to get familiar with the mechanics of chopsticks before arriving. Bones and shells are commonly spit out on the table. In contrast to some Western cultures, it is considered ok to put your elbow on the table.
Beer is a very popular beverage in China. Usually drinks are served during occasions or as a celebratory tool. People will raise their cup and cheers with each other saying “ganbei”. Sometimes, if you’re the youngest/lowest social status person on the table, it is important for you to take initiative and touch everyone’s cup with yours. If the person is older or of higher social status, take note to lower your cup a bit when touching.
---Most major cities in China have become increasingly international and not all of them still follow the same practices. However it is important to realise that there are differences existent between the Chinese and other cultures. Pay special attention to respecting the elderly and people of high social status, and observe how other Chinese people act around you and adapt accordingly.