Eating in Chinese Restaurants: Dos and Don’ts

If you find the sight and smell of Chinese cuisine impossible to resist, you are not alone.

However, while love of Chinese dishes is something many people share, it is unfortunate to note that not everyone who is a fan of the cuisine is aware of the dos and don’ts when eating in Chinese food restaurants.

While you don’t have to learn everything in one go, the following essentials should make it to your basic dos and don’ts list.


DO keep the lid of the teapot slightly ajar

When having tea in Chinese food restaurants, it is considered a custom to leave the lid of the teapot slightly ajar if a refill of hot water is needed.

Removing the lid entirely and placing it on the table is considered bad luck so make sure you refrain from doing so.

DON’T use your chopsticks to serve others

Apart from being unhygienic, serving others using your chopsticks is not considered proper.

At all times, utilize the communal serving chopsticks. Do ask for communal chopsticks if there is none rather than serving others using your own.

Also, keep in mind that just like eating, drinking is also done communally. If beer is ordered, expect your glass to be filled from communal bottles.

DO fight for the right to pay the bill

Even if you were invited, keep in mind that it is still considered customary to humbly “fight” to pay for the food.

Not attempting or showing any interest in paying is often seen as being ungracious.

With that in mind, do try to insist a few times before graciously accepting the hospitality of your host.

DON’T stick the chopsticks in the bowl of rice

While sticking the chopsticks in the bowl of rice might seem harmless at first glance, it is actually considered a no-no.

Albeit not everyone is aware, the gesture symbolizes death or an offering as it is likened to incense placed at the altar.

DO ask the waiter for recommendations

If you have no clue as to what to order, it would be a good idea to ask for recommendations from the waiter.

It is also wise to keep in mind that balance is the guiding principle when ordering in Chinese food restaurants.

Fortunately, when it comes to Chinese dishes, there’s a plethora of choices available.

From flavors (bitter, sour, sweet, salty), cooking methods (steamed, braised, stir-fried, stewed), down to colors and textures, there’s always something for every taste, however discriminating.

DON’T put soy sauce on white rice

As a general rule of thumb, don’t use soy sauce with reckless abandon especially on white rice.

If you want soy sauce on your rice, consider ordering fried rice instead.

DO serve others first

Apart from part of basic courtesy, pouring tea for others is considered customary. Do start with the eldest person on the table and serve yourself last.

If you want to say thank you when someone pours tea for you, tapping the table behind your cup should do the trick.

Apart from being a polite way of saying thank you, it is a good way to show your gratitude without disrupting any likely conversations at the table.

DON’T play with the chopsticks

Just like the spoon and the fork, chopsticks are eating utensils. With that in mind, it is considered rude to use them to point at food or as drum sticks.

Likewise, it is considered improper to make noise using your chopsticks or to use them to move anything aside from food.

While tempting at times, do not use your hands when handling food. Lift any large pieces using your chopsticks and nibble.

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