Things to keep in mind when dining at a local restaurant
Ever wondered about the dos and don'ts of Chinese table manners and dining etiquette? Want to learn more about Hong Kong food culture? Check out our unique guide of dos and don'ts when dining locally from our Hong Kong-born and raised Customer Service Director of Restaurants, Nick Tam.
Chinese etiquette is a culturally and historically rich yet very complex world. Once you master all the rules of Chinese table manners however, you’ll find that it’s more than worth it and you can finally wine and dine like a true local in Hong Kong. Here, we give a top list of dos and don'ts - from our Hong Kong-born and raised Customer Service Director of Restaurants, Nick Tam- with a bit of background information as to some strange, unique traditions and etiquette rules that you may have picked up or seen around. Take note of all these and see if you can put these rules to practice once you arrive in Hong Kong!
Do not be afraid of sharing a table!
Photo credits: TIME
Sharing a table is part of Chinese etiquette. Here, Hong Kong food culture is defined by our need for efficiency and convenience.
To save space, time and the waiter’s efforts, sharing a table, known colloquially in Cantonese as 搭檯 (sharing a table with other customers/parties),
is a pretty smart idea. It cuts waiting time, so you aren’t stuck lining up outside the restaurant for a table,
so sharing a table is common with single or double diners.
So whilst most travellers are shocked to find themselves awkwardly seated across from a stranger they don’t know,
it’s all part of our unique Hong Kong food culture.
Do not report a rude waiter!
Hong Kong is all about the hustle and bustle, there’s no time to wait around.
That’s precisely the case, even in restaurants and cafes, with waiters scurrying about the place, topping up teapots,
writing down orders and serving hot piping dishes to customers. It’s no wonder that waiters always seem so rushed and hurried all the time.
So don’t take it personally if a waiter comes off as rude, indifferent or unbothered,
it’s a byproduct of the rushed frenzy of Hong Kong’s dining etiquette. At times, the ruder the server, the better the food!
Do rinse your utensils
When you find yourself seated in a traditional Chinese dim sum restaurant or a local cha chaan teng,
you might find that the staff have left a large bowl of hot water in the middle of the table. Wonder why?
In Chinese dining etiquette, it’s customary for people to give their utensils, cutlery, plates and bowls a quick rinse.
It has nothing to do with the hygiene and sanitation of the restaurant,
but Hong Kongers are notorious for taking charge of their own cleanliness, and ever since, it’s become a bit of a local tradition.
Do open the lid of your teapot!
Want to ask for more hot water or hot tea? Hong Kong is so efficient that you can do so without uttering a word!
To ask for more tea or hot water, Chinese table manners have adopted the tradition of opening the lid of your teapot and placing it upside down on the table.
It’s a well-known gesture that all locals know, to request for more tea that’s simple enough to understand, even for foreigners.
Once waiters scan the room for opened teapots with flipped up lids, they’ll know to serve you first.
Again, convenience and efficiency are key in Chinese etiquette.
Do show your gratitude!
Photo credits: Golden Moon Tea
Upon being served a pot of hot steaming tea, it’s important to show your gratitude, no matter where you are.
A simple thank you, or ng-goi in Cantonese, will suffice, but if you want to show off your Chinese table manners prowess,
Tap two fingers gently against the table to thank your waiter for pouring tea. Wonder how this strange dining etiquette started?
Legend has it that Emperor Qian Long liked being in disguise to experience civilian life. When he poured tea for his servant,
his servant would bend his two fingers and touch the knuckles to the table, as if he was getting down on his knees to kowtow,
to express his gratitude without exposing the Emperor’s identity. Talk about the history of Chinese table manners!
Do mind your chopsticks!
Mastering the art of holding chopsticks to eat with is hard. But what about the rules of Chinese etiquette?
Chinese table manners have very precise, specific rules for what you can and can’t do with your chopsticks.
Treat your chopsticks as a prized cultural possession, with respect and dignity!
Never point your chopsticks at anyone and certainly never throw or try to use them as a weapon.
More importantly, you should remember to never stick your chopsticks directly upright into your food, especially not your rice bowl.
This is because it’s rude as well as a culturally insensitive faux pas.
Upright chopsticks resemble incense burning at funerals that are supposed to be displayed on the altar and is a symbol of death and bad luck.
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Hong Kong dining etiquette can be hard to master, but it's all worthwhile!
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Located in Tsim Sha Tsui, this beacon of luxury hospitality is steps away from hundreds of local cafes,
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