There are so many things that are different – and of course, the eating culture is one of them. I do prefer the Chinese style of sitting together and sharing various dishes, but it’s fun to watch Chinese people do this in an Western place. For instance, go to an Italian place and they all got the bowls filled with pasta and the big plates with pizza in the middle, and they help themselves and try everything, even on the same plate.
Also, in the German King Ludwig restaurant we went to, I noticed that a lot of people mixed sweet and savoury dishes together on their plates. I would not have mousse au chocolate with my salad, but I guess, for a lot of Chinese people this is a nice taste.Even in the Dim Sum Restaurants, when the sweet custard filled buns are ordered, my colleagues ate them throughout the meal. Not waiting for the meal to finish.
What’s also different is that in traditional Chinese restaurants you get your cup, bowl, small plate, chopsticks and spoon – and then someone brings a bowl of hot water and you dip everything in the hot water and clean it first. It’s a bit tricky cleaning your china and the cutlery in a big bowl of boiling water without spilling it everywhere (especially as there is nothing to dry it up with) but I am slowly getting the hang of it.
Also in traditional places it’s uncommon to have napkins ready. You have to bring your own tissue or napkin with you and if you have forgotten to bring it along, tough luck. There won’t be on the table. That’s very interesting and strange, but again, I’ve learned to bring my own napkin with me, when going to a traditional Chinese place. What else did I notice?
- Even though everyone shares the food, there are some service chopsticks that you have to use to pick up food from the different plates to place in your own bowl
- Eating with chopsticks is tricky, even more when you have a plate of meat with fat and bones in front of you. Or a fresh grilled/steamed whole fish! But still everyone just uses the service chopsticks to put the food in your own bowl and then uses his/her own chopsticks, balancing the meat/fish in front of your mouth and using your teeth to take small bites of the meat – leaving the bone/fat behind
- Chinese people hardly eat rice when they go out for a meal in a restaurant – unless it is special fried rice or the famous char siu fan. I’ve seen them eat noodles quite a lot, but my colleagues only order rice when I ask them to. Once the rice arrives, they hardly touch it – they rather eat the meat and vegetables
- Tea is being refilled if you take off the lid of the tea pot – but sometimes there are places where you get two teapots. One with tea and the other with hot water, so you can then refill the cups yourself, if the tea has become too strong
- Once the meal is over, the waitress/waiter will bring you toothpicks – and then everyone chews on a toothpick (behind their hands)