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Chopsticks etiquette


When eating with chopsticks it is important to know that certain etiquettes apply. These are also in order when using a knife and a fork, so why not for chopsticks? Surprisingly enough, the etiquettes for eating with chopsticks are rather severe and elaborate. They also differ in the different countries where they are used. Therefore, on this page you will find a summary of the most important etiquettes that apply while eating with chopsticks in different countries.



Chinese chopsticks etiquette


To start with, the most important etiquette, namely that of China. China is the biggest country where they eat using chopsticks and more than 15 billion chopsticks are used yearly! Firstly, an explanation on Chinese etiquette.




To start with, a summary of what you CAN do while eating with chopsticks in China.


-When you use chopsticks to eat a bowl of rice, it is allowed to bring the bowl to your mouth to use the chopsticks to put the rice directly into your mouth. This is common in China and no one will mind.


-Before eating, it is allowed to use the chopsticks to put food that is on your plate on the plate of other people, in case they are having troubles doing this themselves. For instance, for parents or grandparents. This can only be done at the start of the meal. In China it is not uncommon to give some of your own food to your parents or grandparents, in fact this is a sign of respect and care.


-When everyone is ready, it is customary to allow the eldest at the table to pick up their chopsticks first. This, too, is a sign of respect and care. Therefore, always give elders the chance to do so.


-Nowadays, it is customary to use separate chopsticks for serving. In the old days, everyone took the food from the middle of the table with their chopsticks, but that is no longer considered polite. For that reason separate chopsticks are usually on the table. They are put back after serving, so that the other table companions can use them as well.


Not allowed


- It is rude to tap the chopsticks on the edge of your plate or bowl. Beggars do this to attract attention. And you would not want to be seen as a beggar, do you?


-When putting your chopsticks down, it is very rude to let them point to one of your table companions. Always mind how you place your chopsticks on the table.


-Never put your chopsticks pointing upwards in a bowl of rice. This refers to the ritual of burning incense and feeding the dead.


-When your children do not use their chopsticks correctly, you will be held accountable. In China it is considered the parents’ responsibility to teach children how to use the sticks the right way.


-It is not allowed to use the backends of your chopsticks to eat with, you are supposed to only use the tips. You can use the backends of your chopsticks to take food from the middle of the table and put it on your plate though, and it is also allowed to stir soup with the backends of your chopsticks. 


-Using your chopsticks to ‘dig’ in the food to look for certain ingredients or pieces of food is considered to be very rude. ‘Digging’ in the food refers to digging someone’s grave, so it is a real no-no! 


Japanese chopsticks etiquette


In Japan there are also certain etiquettes which apply when using chopsticks. Interestingly, these etiquettes are vert different from the ones in China. Therefore, you will find information on the chopsticks etiquettes which apply in Japan. 




-When you put your chopsticks aside for a moment, you cannot just put your chopsticks on the table. You are supposed to keep the tips of your chopsticks clean, therefore it is expected that you use a chopsticks rest. In case there is no chopsticks rest available, you can make one from a piece of paper, for example the sleeve in which your chopsticks were packaged. 


-It is allowed to take food from the middle of the table with the backends of your chopsticks. This is however only the case when there are no special serving chopsticks available. 


-When you put your chopsticks on the table, you are supposed to place them a bit diagonal, so that the tips are pointing slightly to the left. 


Not allowed


-Is is considered rude to use your own chopsticks to pass food on to the chopsticks of one of your table guests. When you want to pass food on, you are supposed to pass your plate so that your table guest can pick the food directly form your plate with his or her own chopsticks. 


-When your chopsticks are crossing each other when you put them on the table, you symbolize death. Therefore, make sure you never do this, since it is very, very rude! 


-In Japan it is also not allowed to put your chopsticks straight into a bowl of rice, this symbolizes a funeral and is therefore a real no-no.  


We hope that this small explanation about chopsticks etiquettes will be useful for you. Next time, try to be aware of these etiquettes to make a good impression. Especially when you are visiting China or Japan, make sure you apply the chopsticks etiquette. Showing that you are aware of the etiquettes is a sign of respect fort heir culture and country. Of course, you can start by trying to apply the etiquettes at home. Below is a visual of some chopstick don’ts  in Japan. 


Read more about buying chopsticks online here


Chopsticks etiquette Japan