If you’ve ever been to China I’m sure you’ve all noticed that Chinese people have a much different eating culture than foreigners. There are many things they do that would never happen back home for fear of being rude or disrespectful. But in China, these practices are quite accepted and the sooner you are aware of them, the better off you’ll be.
Fighting to Pay the Bill
If you eat out with a bunch of your foreigner friends, it’s pretty common for everyone to split the bill or pay for just their portion. However, if you’ve ever seen a large Chinese family eating dinner, when the bill comes it’s an all out war for who will pay. And they are fighting to pay for it.
In Chinese culture there is a strong influence from the idea of “losing face,” which basically means getting shown up in public. One way to not lose face is to win the battle to pay for the bill. It shows that you are financially stable enough to treat others to a meal and is a sign of higher respect. It’s often the role of the oldest or of the highest social status to pay to show their dominance.
Bones in Meat
One of the biggest struggles I’ve seen foreigners go through trying to adjust to the fact that most meat dishes still have the bones in them.
Chinese people love the tender dark meat that can only be found close to the bone. Therefore, having bones in the meat shows that they are getting the meat they want. Plus, they have chopsticks which makes it easier to pick around bone and get at the juiciest meat part.
Meat with the Head Still Attached
It always makes me laugh when a foreigner unexpectedly gets a head in their order. It’s not too common in a lot of foreign countries, but in China it’s often preferred that the head is still attached.
China is known for fake products. Meat can also be fake, so in order to be sure that they are getting the best meat of the animal they ordered, Chinese people prefer it to come with a head. It’s much harder to fake the head part and still give them bogus meat. That’s why certain restaurants will proudly advertise their shop with fully intact dead animals, skinned and ready to be cooked, hanging in their windows.
Chinese people love to share…food. They order a bunch of dishes, put it on the spinning glass in the middle of the circular table and have at it. If you’re new to this process, you have to be fast to get enough food, otherwise it will be gone sooner than you think.
Food is such a huge part of Chinese culture that eating just one or two foods per meal isn’t enough. Instead of having large portions of a few foods like Western countries do, they like to have a little bit of everything. They try to get all different kinds of tastes, textures, and substance from each meal and the best way to do that is to share all the food with everyone.
Drinking Hot Water
While in Western countries, restaurants will typically serve you a nice tall glass of ice water, in China you’ll get recently boiled, hot water. Hot water doesn’t necessarily taste different but it’s hard to get use to. Chinese people just love it.
Hot water has been scientifically proven to be better for you than cold water (not that cold water is bad for you). I won’t get into the scientific details, but basically hot water is easier on your digestion and Chinese people have been taking advantage of this for a long time. Plus, one of the ways to combat the fact that tap water isn’t too good for you in China is to boil it first.
Giving Each Other Food
If you’ve ever eaten out with a Chinese person, they will just put food in your bowl before you can even notice. On top of sharing all the dishes, they will actually just start putting more food on your plate, even if you don’t want it.
In Chinese culture, it is a respectful thing to give someone else food or give them the best part instead of taking it for yourself. Even if they are eating out, giving someone else food is considered “being a good host.” It shows respect and is a polite thing to do for someone. It shows you are putting them above yourself.
Eating Weird Animal Parts
Chinese is known for cooking some of the weirder animal parts that most other countries just throw out. To name a few there’s brains, fish eyes, pig’s face, liver, intestines. For more foreigners it’s gross, but Chinese people have no problem with it.
Chinese people believe in the idea that if a part of your body is lacking, you can eat that part of another animal to make yours stronger. For example, if you have poor eyesight, you can eat eyes to makes yours better. Therefore, every part of the animal can be useful as a meal for someone. It’s like homeopathy.
Not Finishing All of the Food
Often times, Chinese people will not eat all of the food on their plate, especially if they are over someone’s house. A lot of foreigners are taught growing up to eat all the food on your plate so as not to waste, but in China that could be disrespectful.
For Chinese people, eating all of the food on your plate, especially at someone’s house who has cooked for you, is a sign that they didn’t make enough food and that you’re still hungry. Therefore, even if you are still hungry, it’s best not to eat all the food on your plate to show that they made/ordered enough food.
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