As you've probably already noticed, simply moving food from your plate to your mouth using chopsticks will earn you approving nods and compliments from your Chinese dining compatriots. But it's one thing to know basic chopstick etiquette such as "never insert chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice," and another entirely to master the art of this centuries-old cutlery. Below we've rounded up nine rules to keep in mind so that you never accidentally kill the convivial dining vibe.
1) Never insert chopsticks vertically into a bowl of food. Likely the best-known taboo on this list, you should never insert your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of food even for convenience. That's because the effect is likely to remind people of burning incense, which are often placed in a pot as a sacrifice for the dead.
2) Do not use chopsticks of different lengths. If you do, you risk reminding your friends and colleagues of the Chinese idiom 三长两短 sān cháng liǎng duǎn "three long and two short," which is a euphemism for a coffin given that they are composed of five boards: three long and two short.
3) Don’t use your chopsticks to rummage around. It is considered rude to prod and poke at a dish without knowing which morsel you want (although hot pot is one exception). The same goes for soups or any shared dishes where a shared spoon or chopsticks are provided.
4) Do not drop your chopstick on the floor. This one goes without saying for sanitary reasons but there's another reason you should avoid dropping your chopsticks: Chinese people believe that doing so would disturb their ancestors, who are resting underneath the earth.
5) Don’t tap the side of your bowl using your chopsticks. The action of tapping on the side of your bowl with your chopsticks is usually associated with beggars, who used to do this back in the day to get attention or ask for food.
6) Never pick up food with the wrong ends of the chopsticks. Using the wrong end of your chopsticks is considered an act of losing face given that the fatter end represents the "face" of the chopsticks. One exception would be if there are no communal chopsticks handy, someone may turn their chopsticks around to serve another person so as to be polite and not contaminate the food.
7) While eating, never hold the chopsticks and point with your index finger. Using your index finger to point at someone while you're holding chopsticks is considered the equivalent of giving someone the finger.
8) Do not suck on your chopsticks. While slurping noodles and scoffing rice from the bowl is acceptable, the same courtesy is not applied to chopsticks and sucking on them or using them noisily is considered poor form.
9) Don’t rest your chopsticks on the table crisscrossed. As an elongation of polite behavior, it's best to treat your chopsticks with respect, placing them parallel on your rice bowl during the meal and once you have finished, rather than leaving them directly on the table (unless you have been provided a chopstick holder). If you finish your meal before others at your table, you can also indicate that you're in no rush to leave with a simple 你们慢吃 nǐmen màn chī "Enjoy your food."
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A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site beijingkids.