You could think it’s safe to assume that due to the expanse of travel and social media, that cultural differences no longer play such an obstacle for young travellers going from the West to the East.
However, there are still a few dining customs that students should take heed of when traveling to China…
1. Playing with Chopsticks
For a child not accustomed to using Chopsticks daily, they almost seem like a toy. For etiquette tips for students visiting China this is quite a biggy!
Weird as it may sound, chopsticks are to be treated delicately and with a certain amount of respect. A big no-no is sticking chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. This is a symbol of death. It is linked to Buddhist funeral rituals, so definitely a topic to avoid at the dinner table.
When leaving the table, leave your chopsticks on the side of your plate. Or if the restaurant is particularly fancy, leave them on the chopstick rests. After students have finished eating, they should lay used chopsticks across their bowl.
2. Putting others before yourself
Often a moral emphasised in children’s stories and at school assemblies. Where there is a communal beverage on the table, it’s polite to make sure you top up the drinks of others first. Then you can serve yourself.
If you do run out of tea in the meantime, just pop open the tea pot lid. This is a sign for the server to that they need to refill. As a sign of gratitude, it is traditional to tap the table when served tea. Lessons like these certainly go beyond the norm of most educational school trips.
3. Eye-Eye Captain
A freshly steamed, whole fish slap bang in the middle of the dinner table is a common sight in China. Students on trips to China tend to squirm at the sight of the fish complete with head, tail and bones.
It is actually considered a treat to be offered the fish eye. Part of Chinese hospitality to their guest. The eye is full of healthy goodness (honest!). Students won’t be frowned upon if this offer is declined so not to fear. But why not give it a go? It’s not every day that students can say they ate a fish eye on a school trip!
Skills for their futures
The endless number of Chinese customs and superstitions can astound. I admire school groups that get to pick all these subtle elements of Chinese etiquette up their school trips.
Cultivating knowledge like this gives students a head start for those business meetings with Chinese colleagues in future careers!