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Food culture & dining etiquette

Jan 16, 2015


Food & Culture. Unit Three, Lecture Three.

  • 1. Food Culture & Dining Etiquette Unit Three

2. Case Study

  • You invited your Western friend Jane home for dinner. Your family prepared a big mean in honour of your guest, with lost of local Chinese specialties. However, soon after the meal began, you all noticed that Jane wasnt eating very much, you encouraged her to eat more


  • Each time you urged her to eat more, she would comment on how wonderful all the food was, and would eat a little bit more, but she still didnt eat very much.
  • Why do you think Jane ate so little?

4. Possibilities

  • Jane isnt very accustomed to Chinese food or doesnt like it very much
  • Jane wasnt feeling well and didnt feel like eating much
  • Jane may be on some kind of diet (lose weight, medical reasons like high cholesterol or food allergies)
  • Food taboos (for religious or moral reasons, vegetarian)

5. Culture Notes

  • Delicacies: When Western host guests to a meal, like Chinese, they will generally try to serve guests a meal that is special. However, they often dont go to as much effort and expense to serve delicacies as Chinese would


  • Other possible reasons Westerners might hesitate to indulge at a Chinese banquet:
  • On a whole, Canadian and American cooking tends to be somewhat more bland than the cooking in most parts of China
  • Some Westerners have allergic reactions to MSG
  • Some religions wont drink alcoholic beverages

7. Sequence of Course Serving

  • Appetizer (cold or hot)
  • Soup/Salad
  • Fish (or sea food)
  • The Main Course
  • Dessert
  • Black tea or coffee

8. Table Setting (Casual) 9. Table Settings (Fine Dining) 10. Table Settings (Semi Formal) 11. Table Settings (Semi-Formal) 12. Table Settings (Formal) 13. Casual Setting 14. Formal Setting 15. Guest Etiquette

  • Taboos: if you have a special diet, let your host know in advance. This is better than leaving food uneaten
  • Gifts: When you are invited to someones home, bring along a token of your appreciation (e.g. a jar of homemade jam, a bottle of wine)

16. Guest Etiquette

  • Posture: take your seat from the left of the chair
  • Do no slouch, elbows off the table close to your body
  • Do not rock back in the dining chair
  • Napkin given goes on lap (used to be tucked in to top of the shirt)

17. Guest Etiquette

  • When at a restaurant: womens orders are often taken before mens.
  • Do not order one of the most expensive items on the menu or more than two courses unless your hosts indicates that it is all right (work dinner, meeting someone important etc.)

18. Guest Etiquette

  • When Eating: you work your way from the outside to the inside with your cutlery
  • Small fork & knife, medium sized fork & knife; large fork & knife
  • To show that you are finished eating you lay your knife and fork together on your plate delicately


  • When eating: it is polite to not start eating until everyone has received their food
  • If people are ordering food that naturally takes longer (well done steak etc.) they will most likely tell you that you can start without them
  • Usually a restaurant will bring everything out together but if not, keep this in mind

20. Guest Etiquette

  • When Drinking: you may sip on your drink whenever you feel like it and this does not mean that everyone should drink with you
  • Usually when all the drinks have arrived, there is one initial cheers and then no more unless it is a very special occasion
  • Always ensure your water is always full to avoid getting drunk

21. Guest Etiquette

  • Noises: turn off your cell phone until the dinner is over
  • Do not slurp soup (try to avoid blowing on hot foods and beverages)
  • Do not speak with your mouth full
  • If you must blow your nose, excuse yourself from the table
  • If you burp, make it subtle and always excuse yourself

22. Guest Etiquette

  • Good-byes: when the meal or gathering is over, be certain to personally thank your host and shake their hand
  • Tell them how much you have enjoyed yourself and hope to meet them again soon
  • Do not ask for a take-home bag of food but take one if they insist

23. Guest Etiquette

  • Leave at an appropriate time
  • You may hand out your business card only when your hosts or other guests ask; but remember: Do not mix business and pleasure unless you are asked to
  • Follow Up: always send a thank-you note the next day. If you cannot find the time for this, call the next day to express your appreciation.