While travelling through China it’s easy to make rookie mistakes at the table. In order to avoid little blunders, we asked locals here and there about table niceties. This is what we learned about Chinese eating etiquette:

  • Don’t stick your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. It resembles incenses that the Chineses normally burn in honour of deceased relatives
  • Don’t lick your chopstick or stab the food with it
  • When toasting, hold your glass with both hands and try to hit below the top of the other person’s glass as a sign of respect
  • In restaurants, order an even number of dishes to ensure a yin and yang balance. Uneven numbers symbolise death. Also, avoid the number four as it is considered unlucky
  • When someone pours tea into your cup, softly tap the table with your index and middle finger two or three times to thank
  • Serve others before you serve yourself and let the older people  start eating first
  • Don’t burrow through the food with your chopsticks digging for “treasures”
  • Try everything even when it looks unfamiliar
  • Never take the last piece of anything as it’s considered bad luck and gives the impression that you are greedy or that your host hasn’t provided enough food
  • Pick up your bowl supporting it with your thumb, index and middle finger, don’t support it with the palm of your hand. It is regarded as a bad manner to eat bending over your bowl while it’s on the table
  • If you go out for dinner with a Chinese person for the first time, you may wonder who should pay the bill. A Chinese person will be honoured to pay. You should not let him pay directly but argue, showing your intention to pay – failure to do so would insinuate that he owes you something or cannot afford the meal. When he finally pays, you graciously thank him for his hospitality. Don’t forget that now you owe him something, so next time the bill is yours 😉

More about China? Get inspired here.


  1. Beautiful photo!

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