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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 this immediately

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 meal.

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 not honourable

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 in public...

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 sure

This 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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