6 Quick Tips on proper Chopstick Etiquette

by Claire Valenty on August 6, 2010

in Table Manners

table chopstick etiquette

Learning how to eat with chopsticks is hard enough, but, did you know there is chopstick etiquette, too?  Do you know why chopsticks are rubbed together?  Is that good chopstick etiquette?

Chopstick etiquette?  You mean, we have to learn how to use them in the first place and then there are rules?  Yes, there is such a thing as chopstick etiquette, but, lucky for you, we have a handy list of the most common rules!

  • It is bad chopstick manner to rub your chopsticks together before the meal.  I am so guilty of this as I learned from watching others!  Doing so implies to the chef that the chopsticks they are providing are cheap and that you need to rub them together to remove the loose wood strings.
  • Do not use your chopsticks to pull dishes to you; use your hands.
  • When not using your chopsticks, place them on a chopstick holder or on another plate; it is poor chopstick etiquette to leave them sticking out of your food.  Especially, do not leave your chopsticks sticking straight up out of your rice as this is the traditional way to offer rice to the dead during a funeral.
  • Don’t dissect your food with your chopsticks to examine it.   Tearing apart the meal is disrespectful to the chef, as presentation factors into their dish.
  • Following good chopstick etiquette means you do not use your chopsticks to pass food to another person.  Not following this piece of chopstick etiquette means you will evoke images of a traditional Japanese funeral where someone has been cremated the bones are sifted out of the ashes and placed into an urn.  Not something you want to think about when eating, right! 
  • When picking up food from a shared plate with your chopsticks, use the back end.  Think about it – do you want the other end, which has been in someone else’s mouth, accidentally bumping against every piece of food on the shared plate until the proper piece is grabbed?  Gross!

Do you have any other pointers on proper chopstick rules?  Let us know about your experience in the comment section.

Photo: 123rf/Cathy Yeulet

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kok-Yong Tan September 29, 2013 at 3:05 am

The reason why one does not leave chopsticks sticking out of the rice is not for the reason you stated. It’s because it resembles the joss/incense stick offerings to the dead. This is something you might see in many Chinese businesses and homes as ancestor worship is pretty common in Chinese culture.

In formal settings in grander households, solid silver chopsticks are used by the host or the lady of the house to serve guests. These chopsticks are not used by the host for any other task (he/she has her own, regular, chopsticks for eating). At the age of 60 for men (61 for women), these solid silver chopsticks are then used as personal chopsticks for dining out of a celadon bowl. The significance of the number 60 is because one is deemed to have experienced all possible mathematical combinations of the Chinese Zodiac (5 elemental signs and 12 animal signs) in one’s life and thus has achieved some amount of wisdom through experience.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: