Eating Etiquette between China and America

There are more rules about eating in China than anywhere in the world. Chinese food is not only famous for its variety,but also for its diverse tastes. Chinese cooking skills are regarded as one of the best cuisine in the world.

According to records in "Li Ji . QuLi", the order of the meal and dishes were stipulated as follows: The meat with bones was put on the left side of the table while the boneless meat cut into small pieces was placed on the right side. To the left of the meat with bones were grain dishes and on the right side of the boneless meat cut into small pieces was a thick soup. Wine and other drinks were placed to the right side of the thick soup Vinegar and other condiments were put in the center of the table while shredded meat and roast meat were placed along the edges of the table. To its right, steamed Chinese onion was placed and dishes were generally shaped like a square. Everyone is expected to try all the food.

In America, since dinner in family style is an informal event, guests of all ages and gender enjoy eating together. Unlike the Americans', Chinese pay a lot of attention to seating order when they invite people to dinner. The seating arrangement will show the host's sophistication.

As a rule, the table is placed in thecenter of the room. If the host entertains guests, he will take the seat facingthe door, for it is considered the most important place. The main guest ofhonor will be seated on the right side of him. The hostess sits opposite thehost, the second guest of honor sits on the right side of the hostess. Theothers can sit wherever they wish. When the hostess entertains guests, sheshould sit in the most important seat. The main guest of honor sits to theright side of her. Still the host sits just opposite the hostess. The secondguest of honor sits on the right side of the host. If the host and hostessentertain guests jointly, the host should sit at the most important seat andothers are supposed to sit according to the order when the host entertainsguests.

In America, sometimes, since the hostess prepares the dishes, she may not serve the dinner, and instead allowing her husband to do so. Whether you help serve dishes or not depends on the habits and informality of the family you visit. In many families, the host does not allow the guest to do anything. Nevertheless you should offer to help. In general, if you offer help, the host or hostess will tell you directly whether or not he or she needs help.

The beginning of dinner is usually announced by the hostess. Guests can begin to eat only after everyone is seated. When eating, you should keep the same pace with the other guests. Try to notice the eating speed of the host and to match it. Americans' eating is usually a little bit faster than people in other countries; therefore if you eat too slowly, and if you are the last to finish the dinner, you will feel embarrassed.

As for the seating arrangement at the dinner table, when all the dishes have been put on the table, the host will ask each guest to sit down; seating arrangements are usually very informal.Generally speaking, each dish should be completely eaten. If you dislike a dish, you may ask for very little, but to totally refuse would also be impolite.

If you can't eat something because of your religion or for some other reasons, you should tell the hostess in advance. If you have never tasted American food, you may try a little of each dish and praise the quality of each dish. It is really satisfying to both parties.

One thing worth mentioning is when the Chinese invite someone to have dinner, they always prepare more food than is really needed. The host frequently serves food for the guest to make the guest feel at his (her) own home. Since the Chinese know about each other, for some guests, even if they haven't eaten enough, they may tell the host"enough" "enough". The purpose for the host to serve the gust is to let him (her) really eat enough. Since Chinese do not understand the Western dining customs while at a dinner, the Chinese guest will feel that the host is not hospitable enough since the number of dishes served is much less than in China, and the host will not serve more food unless you ask for some more. It is really a matter of different customs and not hospitality.

As for attending a dinner, what is the mostsuitable time to come? You'd better arrive on time or 5 to 7minutes late. Ifarriving ahead of time, you may take a walk, or wait in your car or in thecorridor downstairs. Since the hostess will be making the last minutearrangements, therefore, you should not disturb her at this time. If somethingmakes it impossible for you to come on time, you should telephone the hostessin advance.

Most Westerners, particularly most Americans, are not nearly as concerned about protocol on social matters as Chinese people are. A recent discussion among a group of foreign experts living in China illustrated the fact that not one of them knew whether you are supposed to first introduce Dr. Smith to Mr. Zhang or first introduce Mr. Zhang to Dr. Smith. Unless you receive a formal invitation to a dinner or party, no one cares what you wear or who you sit next to. The practice of toasting has now almost disappeared from Western dining etiquette. But there are still a few Western customs which are extremely important and which you should try to observe at all times.

Manners are a set of rules that allow a person to engage in a social ritual or to be excluded from one. And table manners, specifically, originated in part as a means of telling a host that it was an honor to be eating his or her meal. The following suggestions may be useful while you are on the dinner table.

If you cannot swallow a piece of food, turn round discreetly and throw it somewhere. Do not be afraid of vomiting if you must; for it is not vomiting, but holding the vomit in your throat that is foul. Do not move back and forth on your chair. Whoever does that gives the impression of constantly breaking or trying to break wind. You should not offer your handkerchief to anyone unless it has been freshly washed. Nor is it seemly, after wiping your nose, to spread out your handkerchief and peer into it as if pearls and rubies might have fallen out of your head.

Remember not to chew anything you have to spit out again. And to lick greasy fingers or wipe them on your coat is impolite, so it is better to use the table-cloth or the serviette.


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