A Different Experience In Chinese Restaurants

In the United States, a high-end, nice, romantic dinner for two is considered to be at the peak of civilized society. This is not held to be true in China, halfway around the world. Over there, the atmosphere has a unique name, “renao”, which means “hot and noisy.” This is how they prefer a night out on the town. Quiet time is for home.
When you are out with Chinese friends, there are a few things you would do well to remember. Drinks are a big deal in China. Don’t ever pour your own drink; this is delegated to your peers. At the same time, keep an eye on the liquid levels in their glass and top them off when it is less than halfway. Your friends are supposed to take care of you, and you need to extend them the same courtesy. If you top off your own drink, even if you feel you need it, you risk them taking it as an insult. It is an outward display that says they are not taking care of you.
One thing you do not want to be caught doing in America is spitting chicken bones onto the tablecloth or the floor. However, we are not in America, and this behavior is not only acceptable in China, it is expected.
In a restaurant in China, tea will be your first course. If you are the one pouring tea, serve everyone else first and yourself last. It is bad table manners to fill your teacup first. It is even worse if you fill yours up and no one else’s. Whenever you are handed the teapot, always top other’s off, even if their cup is still full.
There is this notion in China wherein hosts need to take care of their guests. In America, catered meals and banquet-type settings have different rules. You are expected to take what you eat, and you are in charge of your own plate. In China, as a guest you are not in charge of your own plate; the host is. He or she will make sure your plate and cup remain full, even if you are done eating. To save face, the host is expected to serve more than enough food for all guests. As a guest, always leave a bit of food on your plate as a gesture that the host took care of you, even if you think you should and can finish off that last bite.
Another sign of generosity is when you are given food you did not ask for. Don’t be surprised if the host or other guests put food on your plate for you. They are not going to ask if you want it. Accept this gracefully, and always try a bite or two of what you are given. Not touching your food is a sign of ingratitude.
Eating out in China is one of the many things you can do to immerse yourself in Chinese culture. If you do not know what you are doing or what to do look around and do as the locals are doing. Most Chinese have much more tolerance with Westerners if they show an effort to be polite and understand their culture. It is when you display an attitude that shows you do not care that puts their hackles up. They get offended easily. If you put effort into your actions, they will likely welcome you.