Advice for Tourists Visiting China
Eating and sharing food is very central
to the Chinese Psyche
About Restaurants. This section will
not deal with Food or Etiquette,
but act as a simple introduction to eating as practiced
on the city streets of modern Canton.
Chinese often have breakfast on the way to work in the
morning, or take 'Morning Tea', which is a restaurant
situation actually - complete with foods, beer and rice
wine + Chinese tea of course
Lunch is 12 midday prompt! Restaurants open around 10am,
and close by 9.30pm (A few exceptions staying open later).
Within 5-minutes from my apartment are around 500 restaurants,
all with different styles and specialties.Most will
stay open throughout the afternoon, although appearing
to be closed between 3 and 5 pm. After lunch, most Cantonese
have a siesta for an hour or so
Dinner is always 6pm prompt, and don't be late!
You will be expected to choose dishes and select live
produce ie: fish, chickens, prawns, etc. Meat dishes
like chicken will be chopped into a million bite-sized
pieces, including the bones, head and all. Fish will
be served complete with head and tail. Commercially
grown fish are a bones nightmare, so best to select
from the few varieties of fresh sea fish - if in doubt,
check if the tank water contains brine. Common Cantonese
delicacies include: Fish Head soup, pigs brains, chicken
feet, intestines, and dog - get your head around this...
Cantonese food as served in China is generally very
different from that as prepared in your own country.
Most of this is due to presentation, and using all of
the mammal. However, all is available somewhere. The
only thing I have not found anywhere is Chinese Curry,
which is different and possibly specific only to UK?
Vegetarians will have a rough time outside of dedicated
Vegetarian restaurants, as the concept is quite alien
to Chinese thinking. Best option is to say you are Buddhist
(They do not eat meat) and restaurant staff understand
Business meals are normally a continuation
of business = you are still being judged, but the criteria
are different - what Chinese table etiquette do you
know, how much can you drink, what kind of person are
you really - these are all discerned by the Boss during
This is where your deal actually becomes a reality;
and in higher circles, you may actually notice your
staff exchanging notes concerning contractual details.
This is changing slowly, but still matters very much.
You should expect to leave being quite inebriated -
but also show by default who you really are. Fortunately,
whilst Chinese men do love alcohol, they seldom have
Western capacity - exceptions, beware!
Traditionally, a man is judged by his ability to drink
and smoke (Cigarettes). Nowadays many Bosses don't smoke,
although about 90% of Chinese men do. This is not a
problem. However, you do need to be able to drink a
lot of alcohol! I deal with drinking etiquette separately,
but know here that you are personally expected to keep
pace with the Boss, and also return toasts made by his
colleagues. On rare occasions, more likely with important
people and government officials, they may delegate drinking
duties to a subordinate - this is accepted practice
for valid reasons only. If this occurs, you may then
also delegate drinking duties, if done immediately after
the Boss, and at the beginning of proceedings. Do not
do this later in the evening, as this shows you are
If you are hosting a meal and wish to impress the people
there - you should order rice wine to go with the meal.
The only Brands of any stature are called 'Mou Tai',
which are very expensive!
Family and Friends regularly enjoy
meals in restaurants - it is a part of their lives,
and so is the inclusion of the whole family. It is not
uncommon to see five generations sharing and enjoying
a meal together in public. A couple with baby or toddler
in tow will rock-up at a street restaurant after midnight
= no problem, this is the life their kids will grow
into - they sleep when they are actually tired, not
spend hours awake with a torch under the bedcovers,
because some book says all kids must be asleep at 7pm.
Babysitters are unknown in China, to the point that
I have been asked 'Why would you want too?'. They simply
look at me bewildered. It is a very good question, and
perhaps a sad reflection about modern Western society?
That stated, Chinese children are seldom naughty, especially
Siu Yearh or 'Do Little' lit. These
are very popular, cheap and common. They involve friends
meeting for drinks and light foods at street restaurants
- the ones that have tables outside, and stay open all
night long :-) Peak hours are nominally 10pm till 2am,
versions. Most have associated BBQ's augmented by popular
and special dishes. Boys drink Beer or rice wine. Sometimes
there are girl-only parties. These are a great place
to meet people; as passers-by on the streets will often
stop for a chat, or you may become embroiled in a toasting
session with people from a neighbouring table, often
combining for an unforgettable night - that is hard
to remember! My English is correct, and my latest finish
so far has been 7.30 am! Fortunately, this is a very
rare occurrence, but if Europeans equate this to Spanish
or Greek holiday bars, you will get the picture I am
information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in
UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources.
Please check this information yourself as it may alter
without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure
it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for
any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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