Chinese Dining Etiquette

Etiquette at the dining table

In China, almost all dishes are served at once. Only at a formal dinner will the soup be served separately, before or after the other dishes. And then there is also the dessert of fruit or sweet soup. The food is placed in large bowls in the middle of the table and people scoop from it into their own plates or bowls. It is not proper to use your own chopsticks to scoop up food for others, except for your own family members.  At an informal dinner, you may also put the food directly from the bowls into your mouth. But sticking your chopsticks straight up into the rice is always rude, as is pointing or waving the chopsticks, impaling food on your stick and fishing for tasty bits in the communal bowl.

Before you pour your own cup of tea, make sure the cups of those around you are full.




Although Chinese people are drinking more and more wine and beer, Baijiu, white liquor, is still very popular at a business dinner or lunch. Baijiu is served in small glasses. After the toast (ganbei) one drinks the glass empty in 1 gulp, because ganbei literally means 'empty the glass'. It is absolutely acceptable and even desirable to get drunk, as it is considered the beginning of a close friendship.


Intrigued? Click here for our current Chinese courses or have a look at our video about Chinatown in The Hague here.

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