Dining Etiquette

A typical Chinese meal normally consists of several “main dishes” as opposed to one main dish.  All dishes are set on the table at once and everybody helps him/herself to the selection. There is typically a couple meat dishes, chicken, beef or pork, a vegetable, fish or seafood, and a soup.


White rice is always at the core of the meal, and is the base for all the individual dishes being served.

Desserts are not common, a meal normally finishes with fresh fruit and in some special occasions with some other sweet like almond custard. Fortune Cookies are not really Chinese, they are an American invention, and you will not find them in China.

Cold drinks like sodas or juices are not served with a typical Chinese meal, although the practice is catching on specially in touristy areas and the bigger cities. Instead, Chinese enjoy a cup of tea or a variety of soups with their meals.



 A typical place setting includes:

  • a rice bowl 
  • chopsticks
  • plate which is placed under the bowl and serves as a bone/discard plate
  • smaller sauce dish for a dipping sauce
  • Chinese porcelain soup spoon
  • tea cup 

 There are several things to remember when you use chopsticks.

    * Don't dig in the food on a plate but just get the piece which you want to get

    * Don't pick one piece then drop it back in the plate and change to another piece

    * Don't let your chopsticks be covered with food juice or residue

    * Don't use chopsticks to beat any utensils to make any noise

    * Don't wave your chopsticks

    * Don't use chopsticks like forks

    * Don't use chopsticks as toothpicks

    * Don't lick or suck your chopsticks

    * Don't put chopsticks vertically in rice in a bowl since it resembles the incense sticks for the dead