I always find it fascinating to discover customs which are different from mine. Here in China I’ve learned and discovered a lot of things especially on the dining table. These things are based on my observations and some I’ve learned from my former students. For the majority of Chinese, when they eat in a restaurant, they usually order a lot of food because the host would feel embarrassed if there were not any left-over. Don’t be surprised if your host puts food in your plate using his or her chopsticks, this is a sign of friendship and closeness. During my first trip to China i always ate too much, because i had to finish everything they put in my bowl. And it is courteous to finish all the food they serve you. So remember, when you have had enough, just say so. They usually want you to taste different types of dishes from the spiciest to the sweetest. I remember when i visited my husband’s hometown last year, we visited 3 families on one day and I tried to eat everything they put in my bowl. Instead of plate some use a small bowl. It seemed like a torture for me because i wasn’t used to eating that much (lol) but I am somehow getting used to it after staying in China for 9 months. Some don’t use serving spoon, the dishes are placed on the table and everyone uses his/her own chopsticks. But I think you can always ask for a knife, a fork and a spoon especially in a fine-dining restaurants. Before visiting China you should learn how to use chopsticks.
Keep this in mind, while eating or after eating lay the chopsticks on your dish, do not stick vertically in the rice bowl, because for them this looks like a burning incense dedicated to dead people (shrine for dead person is made of bowl of sand or rice with two sticks of incense stuck in it. If you do it mistakenly, it seems like you are wishing death to that person at the table.
There are exemption to the rules, some still practice these traditions. Some do not care about it anymore.
Before, i often judge other’s customs, especially those that are different from mine, or it seems like taboo for me, I tend to judge them by thinking that our customs are superior and theirs are inferior and improper. Kairos(LSI) book defined this as ethnocentrism, we have the tendency to judge the behavior of others on the basis of our own cultural assumptions. This assumption could lead to the phenomenon that sometimes, Christianity is rejected in a foreign culture.
1 Corinthians 10: 31-33 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God-even as i try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but to the good of many, so that they may be saved”
© 2009 the emissary’s feet