For more than 16 years, Sue Ann Ma has provided clients of the Seminal Financial Group, Inc., a variety of bookkeeping and tax-planning services as a certified public accountant (CPA) and the company president. Beyond her professional activities, Sue Ann Ma enjoys travelling internationally. She likes to try local food on her trips and has become particularly fond of Chinese cuisine.
Sampling local dishes is one of the most exciting benefits of traveling abroad and represents a unique window on the culture of another country. At the same time, travelers are advised to learn and adhere to local dining customs and traditions.
When dining as a guest in China, for example, individuals must view every meal as a special occasion. Guests should dress nicely, find out if they are expected to bring the host a gift or dessert, and, most importantly, arrive on time. In China, elders are highly respected, and travelers must remember never to begin eating before seniors at the table have started. In fact, a meal may not officially begin until an elder declares, “Let’s eat.”
When it comes to etiquette, Chinese table manners often resemble Western manners. That said, travelers should realize that there are subtle differences and that any breach of etiquette can be viewed as much more offensive than at home. A diner should never reach across the table for a serving dish but, instead, eat from the dishes nearest to his or her place at the table. Should an individual need to sneeze or dispose of unwanted food, it is best to do so away from the table, out of sight of the other diners.
Other aspects of dining etiquette are unique to China. For instance, individuals who have not mastered eating with chopsticks should refrain from using them at all, rather than skewering pieces of food and eating off the stick. Chinese meals often feature a number of small dishes, so diners must remember to sample a little of each plate, rather than finishing a tasty dish before others at the table have had a chance to try it.