What's Your Chinese Eating Etiquette IQ?
Chopsticks hero or noodle slinger? 11 questions to chew on
1. The "best seat" (the one that should be reserved for the oldest or most important guest) is usually
a. the one facing east.
b. the one facing the door.
2. Your co-worker has invited you to dinner on her bill and told you to order whatever you like. You
a. make sure to order plenty of dishes—you want to give her face, and besides, you're hungry.
b. choose a modest selection of inexpensive dishes that you both like.
c. casually browse through the menu and finally hand it back to her to do the ordering.
d. ask the waitstaff to tell you the restaurant's specialties and then order one of each.
3. Your fiancé's parents have invited you to dinner. It'll be your first time meeting them. You wear
a. sandals, shorts, and a T-shirt—when it comes to family, you should be comfortable.
b. the sexiest outfit in your wardrobe. Dress to impress!
c. your work clothes—a bit stiff, but the only thing you can find that is clean and conservative.
d. the only thing you can find that hasn't been festering in your dirty-laundry pile.
4. Rice, rice, baby. At a formal dinner, rice should be ordered
a. at the end of the meal so that you can show your appreciation for the art of cuisine.
b. at the beginning, with the dishes—you need the rice to sop up all that spicy sauce!
c. never—rice is just emergency filler food for inexpensive meals.
d. whenever you feel like it; it's just rice.
5. A balanced order includes
a. grains, vegetables, meat, and fruit.
b. cold dishes, meat, vegetables, and soup.
c. hot dishes, cold dishes, drinks, and dessert.
d. kung pao chicken, fried rice, chao mein, a fortune cookie, and an orange wedge.
6. While dining with your parents-in-law, you find that as soon as you've emptied your bowl, more food appears in it. You empty it again, only for more to appear. What's the most graceful way to put an end to this cycle?
a. instantly gobble up any food as soon as it lands, and pray that it will stop eventually.
b. give the refiller a funny look and then put some food into his or her bowl.
c. say, "xie xie!" and then leave the food there.
d. wave your hand and shout as loudly as you can, "Bu yao! Chi baole!"
7. You've been following a vegetarian diet for the past several years. Your host repeatedly urges you to try the centerpiece dishes—all of which include meat. You
a. immediately abandon your dietary ideals for the sake of international relations.
b. scoff and launch into a diatribe on animal rights, offended at the idea that somebody would expect you to eat carnage.
c. take some into your bowl and then proceed not to touch it.
d. say "Bu yao, xie xie," and offer a concise explanation that you don't eat meat.
8. You're at dinner with a potential business partner. Which of the following should be avoided?
a. cigarettes and alcohol. You wouldn't want to be branded a smoker or a lush.
b. fighting over who pays the bill. This is clearly undignified.
c. ordering more than you can possibly eat and leaving the remains. You wouldn't want to look like a wasteful spender.
d. blowing your nose at the table. Nasty.
9. When eating meat off the bone, you should spit the bones—and any other inedible parts—
a. on the table next to your dish.
b. on the small plate next to your bowl.
c. on the floor.
d. back into your bowl.
10. Chopsticks etiquette dictates that you never do any of the following except
a. put your chopsticks upright in your rice.
b. point or gesture with your chopsticks.
c. use your chopsticks in the soup bowl.
d. tap your chopsticks on your bowl or plate.
11. You want to pay for dinner, but you know you're up for some stiff competition for the honor. In order to win the fight, you
a. snatch the bill from the waitress's hand, check it, and then jump up and do a victory dance before slamming your money down onto the tray.
b. excuse yourself to go to the restroom before the dinner's over and on the way detour to the front counter, where you pay.
c. when everyone grabs for the bill, you stand up and shove them all out of the way, violently using your knees, elbows, and any other body parts that are convenient.
d. ask for the bill, but when others are faster than you at paying, say to yourself, "Oh well—obviously they wanted to pay anyway."
How Did You Do?
less than 11
Lazy Susan No need to ask if you've chifanle, meiyou—everybody can plainly see the answer all around your plate.
11 to 29
Dumpling Stuffed and sealed—you take the man man lai approach to manners.
More than 29
Lord of the Napkin Rings Congratulations—you're ready to eat in public.
Sichuan University graduate and Chengdu native Tan Juan consulted with us for dining etiquette rules. This article was originally published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 26, "How to 3.0". Photos by Michal Pachniewski.