Chinese and their eating habits

Actually, I wanted to blog this for a while but the last earthquake sort of shaken off my idea. It is a spin-off from Andreas of Always WOW entry. He, being an angmoh, found that the scenes at some restaurants a little yucky. And someone posted this comment which I do agree, eventhough Andreas did not quite like it.

Chinese are dirty people! Posted by: wan on March 28, 2005 04:36 PM

Why do I agree? Because you can see this for yourself:
food1

Who wants to refute this? In Penang, we have a place where a person can actually squat and eat their meals. They put a stool on top of the bench and you climb on the bench, sit on the stool and with both your knees jutting out, above the table, you eat, Pretty cool, hor? When I get a photo, I will post it. However, only the Chinese trishaw riders eat in this position. Maybe one day I challenge myself to pose, order a bowl of porridge and take a photo?

Am I ashamed of this? Of course not! I am a Chinese and accept some of our quirky manners. But of course, we can certainly try to be more civil and neater.

Next thing that I observed is the mannerism at hawker centre versus restaurants. I was at Mr. Ho’s Fine Foods in Penang just now. Over here, it is a grand bungalow offering wine, cigar and coffee. While waiting for my dessert, Ginger Creme Brulee, I sat there alone for several minutes looking at the limbs movement and expression of the patrons. (toddler has gone out to the patio with dad)

Why do we feel awkward in places like these whilst we feel at home in Chinese restaurants? It is just eating, right? Why do they appear so well-mannered, speak so softly and just seem so out of place?

Take for e.g. eating the buns. I would take it, tear off a piece, dab a huge piece of butter, open my mouth big big and stuff into it. But some of the patrons sort of spread the butter in slow motion and then, hold the bun with both hands and open their mouth small small and bite a little bit. Must we tune ourselves to match the angmohs environment even if it makes us feel uncomfortable?

Well, let me leave you with a random shot taken by my 13 yrs old at the hawker centre. Read : Hawker Centre. Dress code: Black number with high black faux leather boots.
food3

If you are not a Chinese, tell me what are some of the things you find quirky about us? If you are a Chinese, do you agree we are very messy when come to eating? And no, this is not a racist topic.

29 Replies to “Chinese and their eating habits”

  1. (i am a chinese)

    i find loud slurps and talking with a mouth full of food, very unpleasant…these are pretty common sights in a chinese dining table.

    yea, i do i agree that we’re very messy when it comes to eating.

  2. Heh. Chinese are loud and not so clean when it comes to eating in a public place. I wouldn’t call it dirty because it is such a strong word. Have you ever been to Chinese restaurant which is quiet? Never. Hhehe..Even the ones here in UK are just as noisy as ever. Actually even noisier than the ones back home. Reason: The clicking of the chopsticks, the scrapping of the food platter and the chatter of the people eating. It is part of our culture. If I were to go to a Chinese restaurant which is quiet, I would freak and feel so uncomfortable.
    About our cleanliness, yeah…we are a bit not so clean. We spit fish bones on the white table cloth and then spill soya sauce on it too. After that we leave chicken carcasses on our empty plates and wash our hands with the chinese tea after that. It is part of our culture and am I proud of it? Yes, I am. How many cultures in world have such unique eating habits?

    About eating bread in an ang moh restaurant? Never eat it like a hamburger. It is rude. Always pinch it a little bit and then spread some butter over it and then only eat it slowly.
    About your comment that we should not behave like an ang moh just because we go to an ang moh restaurant?? I think you’ve heard this saying before…”masuk kandang kerbau menguak, masuk kandang kambing mengembek.” Same meaning in English…”when you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

    We Chinese are particularly good in adapting. I’m sure you can to…not to conform but just to make peace and not create a scene 😛

  3. Spot on, Lilian!

    I’m sure you’ve been to chinese wedding dinners where ppl throw the leftovers and bones and whatnots in the dish plate after finished eating the dish. The waiters and waitresses do the same thing too. If you don’t throw them in, they will do it for you. Even in a 5 star hotel, they do the same thing too.

    There’s one thing I dislike about the chinese eating habits- spitting on the table. I see my housemate’s mom doing that on the dinner table and it spoilt my appetite!

    i agree with cherry, we chinese are good in adapting. How many non-chinese can be like this? 😛

  4. I was born and raised in Malaysia, and now living in Minnesota….have been for the past 7 years. Anyway, geographical background aside……. I guess it’s how we are brought up as well, my grandparents are terribly “british” since my grandpa is 1/2 Scot and all that, and my grandma had parents that were working for the Brits or something like that. Always had to have certain set of manners at the dinner table regardless if it’s just a quick meal of “Maggi mee” or a dinner in public. Americans (well, my husband) is not exactly the best when it comes to table manners… so we can scratch the part that said that we behave like ang-mo when we eat! *laughs* It’s all about what you know and how you were brought up I guess…And now, I eat lying down on the couch, on the run and however I want to! It feels great to be free! 🙂

  5. My husband’s pet peeve about me eating.. is the chewing too loud.. or with the mouth open.. or talking with a mouth full..!!! hehehhe!! And that i continue to slurp on my empty cup for 5mins.. to get the ice.. hahahhaha!!!!

  6. Was born in Malaysia. One thing I do notice during my travels.. Few years ago Hawaii and many parts of Canada were very popular with Japanese tourists. While they do talk loud, they pretty much on the whole are polite and tend to observe common courtesies…However in the past few years, China tourists took over, we now have Q-jumpers, people hogging tourist hot spots for ages to pose for pictures, people squatting all over the side of the road, and yup lots of hawking and spitting and clearing their noses. At one point one idiot couple almost knock my child over board the schooner just to get the perfect photo..Not even a word of apology.. AND we recently had pictures in the local papers of these people in fancy restaurant s with…aarrgh one foot on the chair and scratching their feet.
    OK so I’m Chinese… Malaysian chinese. does that make it a tad better than China ones LOL

  7. don’t miss the best part…licking the fingers at the end. Especially after eating crabs and roti jala!! But of course I could never do this when eating in front of my American friends but it feels comfortable when doing it at home or anywhere when I’m in Penang..even during a wedding dinner. 🙂

  8. when i was working in Penang, i stayed with a Chinese lady – a very meticulous lady. We’d take walks along the esplanade in the evenings and she’d advise me against eating at the stalls! Now that I am so far away…I want to eat at those stalls, those rojaks, mee mamak (nevermind if they’ve not changed their sarungs), ice kacang ..prawn noodles.aaaarghhhh!

  9. I’ve spent several months under the same roof with Chinese housemates back melaka. What I noticed whenever I go out dinner with them, is that they like to talk with their mouths full. I don’t see this among chinese girls, though.

    If we’re eating at home [sometimes i empty a whole can of tuna and we gobble it up with bread while watching news or chinese dramas], they’re very meticulous about hygiene. But at mamaks, or other restaurants, they don’t usually care that much.

  10. If we’re at a hawker centre…eat just like how you would normally eat at home. If you’re at fine restaurants, eat with more manners.

  11. Simon – My camera zoom very kerng wan, 12X optical zoom, 4x digital zoom with anti-shake mechanism (when zooming faraway object, people tend to come out with blurry photos due to slight shake). My kids, toddler included, have eyes to ‘see’ what is blogging materials. LOL!

    Dave, Silencer, S-Kay – Ya, kena jaga standard Malaysia Chinese Boleh.
    Kak Teh – Eh, eh, mamak nowadays all long sleeves and long pants, tak pakai sarung lagi.

    hush4m3 – Dun ler like that, finger licking good is for KFC advert only.

    romantic – yayaya, i have this peevee about China’s Chinese too. The closest I got to China is Shenzen and they scared the daylight out of me. It worries me when people says they are going to rule the world someday.

    Mrs T/Swermy/Eileen/Cherry/Kenjiro – Actually, some of the hang-ups about eating manners are those I learnt from reading Pride and Prejudice, Little Woman and those Enid Blytons. About washing up before meals, no elbows on the table, legs together etc etc. But in real life, in this modern times, I don’t think people do that anymore. And if I am rich enough to eat at that restaurant, no matter how chic, I don’t give a damn ‘cos I am paying! Of course, all the bad manners are left at home la. But still elbows on the table got la.

    Venus – Gimme a five!

  12. ay, ay, why cannot put elbows on the table? Only while eating or even when waiting for the food?

  13. Haha.. Chinese always has this habit of..

    1) Eating with the mouth open
    2) Talk with the food still half chewed
    3) Removes shoe/slipper and crosses their legs to get comfy in a comfy restaurant
    4) After eating, they will use the toothpick and after that, chew on the toothpick
    5) Even after a 15 course meal, they will still excuse themselve for more food outside that restaurant and resort themselves to mamak.
    6) As I dont always pay the bill while with relatives, but they always have trouble paying it. No, they dont push the bill around, they keep insisting on paying it. Uncle A wants to pay, Uncle B wants to pay, my dad wants to pay. In the end, before the last meal arrives on the table, Uncle D actually paid already with the casher discreetly.

    What I enjoy being a youngster, I enjoy the drama and offer to take care of the baby who doesnt seem to stop walking.

    In the end of the day, I am still proud being chinese..

  14. hmmm that pic was taken in northam beach cafe, no? haha.

    anyway i think there are a whole lot more chinks with more skimpy (read: less material) clothings and highER faux leather boots, straightened hair.. hmm cant leave that out somehow.. but this one is good enough of an example.

    they make my eyes roll!! and then squirt with gunks and goo… heh, yes am chinese too. hah 😀

  15. ireally must add this…travelling on the london bus and then i could smell that familiar smell from that small bottlethey will never go without, that most chinese and some malays carry – minyak chap kapak!! turned around and sure punya – a bunch of malaysians sightseeing!!! really brought tears to my eyes in more ways than one.

  16. “Talking with a mouth full of food…” Sorry not to all right. My mom always said… “Jangan bercakap kalau tgh makan” – Dont talk while you eat.

    Concentrate and lets enjoy your food… what and however it is.

  17. In my opinion: –

    No the food does not taste any better just because you eat with your mouth open and make all of those horrible slurping, sucking and lip smacking noises. It’s not big and it’s not clever and if you haven’t got good manners then don’t go into a fine eating establishment because you just make everyone else feel sick.

    It is also not clever to talk with your mouth full with food, it is so infantile.

    You are grown-up now so please start to act like a grown-up ok…

  18. i realise that chinese had a bad habbit… in every dish or packet of food, they like to leave the last piece of food on the plate instead of finish it up. do u realise that?

  19. Hey, im not chinese but i like the sweet and sour chicken from this one chinese resturaunt. The chicken is AWE_SOME awsome awesome totally–> a cheer because i am a cheerleader.

  20. i totally do not agree with tis post…

    The messiness of ppl during meal time is all because of the education from families… Parents who consistenly teach their children to hav good table manners would not hav this kind of problems… It’s not only the chinese who hav this kind of habits… Every other races in this world hav the same problem too…!!

    Therefore, i absolutely oppose the idea of ” chinese” have bad table manners… Please do not be stereotypic when u are viewing any problems..

    Thank you.

  21. heh. i have lived with two chinese roommate girls before and been to china 4 times on long stays. (I’m not chinese). And I have noticed that a lot of them eat with their mouths open, WAY open. and smack their food. oh well..

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