Since ancient times, Chinese people have paid lots of attention to etiquette. They even have a book all about etiquette and social norms called “The Book of Rites.” When you are out to dinner in China, here are six dining rules you should follow.

  1. 1 Do follow the seating orders.

    Seating Order

    For formal dinners, you should follow a strict seating order. Chinese seating order is based on seniority and organization hierarchy. Generally the seat of honor is the seat directly facing the entrance. 

    This seat is reserved for the guest of honor or the eldest in the group. Others with higher status will sit in seats closest to the seat of honor. 

    Seating orders show respect and allow guests to feel they are valued. 

  2. 2 Don’t clink your chopsticks on a bowl or plate.

    Chopsticks on bowlThis is bad luck. Chinese people are extremely superstitious. Clinking on a bowl or plate is something a beggar would do in ancient China. 

    Therefore to do this is to ruin your fortune. It is not a polite thing to do either.

  3. 3 Do “fight” each other when paying for the bill.

    Do not be startled. This is very common in China. People will fight each other over the bill. 

    For those who grew up with Asian parents who do this, it is traumatizing yet amusing at times. I did not fully understand why until I was much older. 

    “Arguing” or “fighting” each other for the bill is about the concept of showing face or 面子 (miàn zi). The more one can afford to spend, the more it shows that they are successful in life. It is a way for Chinese people to flaunt their status. It comes across as “looking good.”

    Therefore when you are having lunch or dinner with Chinese people, be sure to “fight” for the bill a couple of times. But do not be too aggressive!

  4. 4 Don’t chew or slurp very loudly.

    Slurping or chewing too loud is rude.This is a given. It is disrespectful and obnoxious to chew or slurp very loudly. When you do this, it shows you have bad manners and are not mindful enough to consider others feelings. 

    So chew quietly and slowly. Enjoy the food!

  5. 5 Do try to taste every dish.

    Dishes on a round tableChinese dinners are served family-style 99.99 percent of the time

    This means you should expect everyone to have their own plate or bowl of rice but the main dishes will be in the middle of the table. The dishes in the middle are usually on a rotating glass tray to make it easy for everyone to get what they want. 

    It is important for you to try all the dishes at least once. It’s considered impolite to just eat one dish. It gives off the impression that you are being inconsiderate to others if you hog only one dish. 

  6. 6 Don’t “dig” or search for food.

    Chopsticks on top of food

    Many people know it is an extreme taboo to stick your chopsticks straight up in your bowl of rice, especially in China. It is considered bad luck because it reminds people of the incense at a funeral. 

    It is equally as bad when you dig or search for food with your chopsticks. This means when you reach for food just take the piece that is closest to the top or closest to you. 

    Do not go searching for the perfect piece. This action is bad luck because it symbolizes you are “digging your own grave.” It is also poor manners; no one wants to eat food you have dug through.    


    Now you can dine with your friends like a pro! Did we miss any other dinner etiquettes? Let us know in the comments below.


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Amie Lin

Amie Lin is currently attending Hunter College double majoring in Mandarin and Media Studies. She is such a foodie and loves Chinese dramas.
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