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Social Observations - Etiquette
Chinese Etiquette - Beer, Tea, Table Manners

Chinese people practice quite strict rules of etiquette, although you as a visitor may not realise they even exist!

As a visitor, you are not expected to know any of this. I will leave you to work out yourself whether this means you are seen as 'uncultured'? Try reversing things and see what you would consider Chinese actions to be in the West?

This page is designed to help you master the very basics of Chinese etiquette. You will give your Host and companions great honour by trying to follow even the most rudimentary etiquette for any given situation. Having lived in China for 5-years, even I cannot follow the strictest etiquette codes. I do know exactly what to do at a British Banquet, which utensils to use when, The Loyal Toast etc. Chinese etiquette is equally difficult, and perhaps more-so?

Here I will be looking at personal interactions at a daily level, business level, and Regional Government level. Every Chinese person excepting some ethnic minorities, practices the basic level daily

Basic Etiquette
There are only three main areas for you to be concerned with: Tea, Beer, and Table Manners

Initially you may find the way that ordinary Chinese eat food to be uncouth. Please know that they are also judging you equally badly and will probably think you are totally un-cultured. Perception is a wonderful asset
1. The host should sit opposite the door
2. Toasts regularly pundtuate a formal Chinese meal
a) Don’t drink (Alcohol) before the host has proposed the first toast
b) The honoured guest (Probably you) should repay this toast either immediately, or as soon as the next dish is served
3. If you drop a piece of food on the tablecloth – leave it there
4. When using toothpicks, the mouth should be covered
5 . If eating something large and awkward, cover your mouth
6 . Most meals are not considered too formal – but be aware of the above, especially ‘toasting’
7. Less formally, never drink alone. Tap your glass on the Lazy Susan - so anyone wanting a drink will join you

Chinese Tea
Taking Tea is very central to Chinese peoples, and the Japanese Tea Ceremony you may know from books and film, is based in Chinese Tea Culture (Just taken to extremes)

When meeting at home, work or for leisure, Chinese always offer tea. Sometimes this is just plain water, which is usually served warm. Sometimes people go straight onto the beer or rice wine. Etiquette dictates you should be proficient at making and serving Chinese Tea, even in a restaurant!

Chinese Beer
Chinese men like to drink either beer or rice wine, which they practice doing frequently. The etiquette is virtually the same, and I have chosen beer because glasses are larger and Westerners are more likely to drink it

Follow the link above for three main categories:
1. Language and tips
2. Normal drinking
3. Formal drinking


Chinese Table Manners
Chinese table manners can vary depending upon which part of China you are in. There are also normal and formal versions, so for this study I will keep things simple, and in cases of Regional differences, will use the Guangzhou Cantonese style

You may find some common practices alarming at first, but usually by the time you have mastered using chopsticks, the reasons for the behaviour have also become apparant. Chinese will also find a few common Western table manners as being barbaric! Read on...
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. This particular page also contains my personal, unbiased, and apolitical observations. 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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