Chopstick Etiquette: Essential Tips to Know

Chopstick Etiquette: Essential Tips to Know

Chopsticks are symbolically and culturally important to China and other neighboring Asian countries. Like anywhere else in the world, the Chinese are strict about how you use chopsticks. Misusing their favorite eating utensil will make sad, which is not something you want your hosts to feel. To avoid all the bad feelings, we have got you a list of 13 chopsticks etiquette you need to follow when in China and anywhere else:

keep chopsticks together

1. Keep chopsticks joined together

When resting the chopsticks, keep them on the side of your bowl or plate in their designated area. You will be given a small block to rest them but if you aren’t, then you should place the chopsticks together with the ends meeting each other. Never keep them crossed on the plate as it is a sign of denial, which means that you don’t like the host and denying their kindness.

2. Turn chopsticks to pass food

pass food with a boal

Many Chinese homes don’t use special cutlery to serve food. If someone invites you over for lunch or dinner, use your hands to pass the serving bowls instead of using your chopsticks. Never receive food with your chopsticks as it reminds Chinese people of a funeral rite they person where cremated bones of the loved one are passed behind family members using chopsticks.

3. Don’t play with them ever

Chopsticks might not mean anything to you but you have respect other cultures. Don’t use them to play drums, tap, spin, or bang the chopsticks together. You wouldn’t do that with forks or spoons, so chopsticks are not different. When you drum your plate with the chopsticks, it is associated with the act of begging.

4. Don’t poke food with chopsticks

Never ever try to poke food with chopsticks. If you are concerned about the food being properly cooked properly or not, request the person to offer you a knife. Cut it and clear your doubts. It shows that you are immature and don’t know basic table manners.

5. Always angle the chopsticks

When you are resting the chopsticks, make sure they never point directly to the person sitting in front of you. It is considered as a rude gesture, so angle them slightly.

6. Don’t pick up large and slippery pieces of food

It is perfectly okay to pick up a large piece of food like fried chicken or fried fish and eat it directly but not if it is slippery. Cut the food in smaller pieces and eat them with chopsticks afterwards. Ask for a knife to cut up the food and avoid handling food directly with your hands whenever possible. Also, don’t dig around in the food to find your favorite vegetable or meat. It gives other eaters a feeling that you are giving them rejected food and insulting them indirectly.

7. Never stick chopsticks in your food

If you don’t want to eat food anymore, don’t stick the chopsticks in your food. The position resembles incense sticks that you offer to the dead as Chinese people stick incense sticks in rice to pay respects to their dead. Also, it isn’t pleasing and can hurt anyone who isn’t passing around food. Don’t use chopsticks to remove food stuck in your mouth. You will be given toothpicks after the meal, which you can use to clear the stuck food contents. Make sure to cover your mouth while doing so.

8. Removing bones

It is okay in the Western world to spit out bones directly on the place but considered to be disrespectful to the host in China. You can either use your hand or the chopstick to pick the bone from your mouth place them on your plate. It is a sign of poor upbringing.

9. Move anything else

If you want to move the napkin or pass someone a tissue paper, don’t use the chopsticks to do so. They should only be used to eat food and pass serving bowls. If you have rice stuck at the end of the chopsticks, don’t lick them. It is okay to keep the food grains or sauce as it is.

10. Holding chopsticks in your mouth

When you are passing the serving dish or bowl, never hold the chopsticks in your mouth. It goes the same for other eating utensils, so follow the rule here as well. Also, it isn't safe and someone can accidently fall on you and the chopsticks can knock a couple of teeth out of your mouth.

11. Never use the little finger

Only use the thumb, index, and middle fingers to hold the chopsticks. It is difficult to use the eating utensil without using the thumb, so it is simply an etiquette that makes eating food easy.

12. Don’t ever drop the chopsticks

Don’t do the mistake of dropping your chopsticks even by accidents. Chinese people believe that their dead family members sleep below the ground and the noise that chopsticks make on falling can wake them up from their sweet dreams.

13. Using chopsticks of mismatched length

Chinese chopsticks are 25 cm in length but with industrialization, you will find other types of chopsticks in the country. If the chopsticks in front of you are of mismatched length, get them changed. According to Chinese tradition, mismatches chopsticks bring misfortune. They even have an idiom for it -- sān cháng liǎng duǎn, which translates into three long, two short. You need three long and two short planks to make a coffin and that’s where the traditional meaning comes from.

All these etiquettes are easy to remember. Don’t forget to enjoy the most authentic Chinese food. We are sure you are going to have a whole lot of fun.

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