You’re a foreigner working for a Chinese company. Your boss has organized a formal staff dinner, you’re going to be the only foreigner there and you’re determined to make a good impression. What are the Dos and Don’ts of a Chinese company dinner? Firstly, don’t panic too much. Chinese people don’t expect foreigners to know much about Chinese dining etiquette. In fact, most of your coworkers will probably be gobsmacked if you can pick up a slice of roast duck with your chopsticks and eat it without making a mess. However, there are some basic rules of thumb that you should follow to avoid any serious faux pas.
1. Do dress appropriately. Chinese company dinners are usually formal occasions, so dress smartly. Men should wear a suit and tie, and women should wear a dress or a blouse and skirt. Avoid wearing anything too revealing or flashy, as this may be seen as inappropriate.
2. Don’t be late. Punctuality is highly valued in Chinese culture, so make sure you arrive on time. If you’re running late, make sure you call ahead to let your boss or colleagues know.
3. Do bring a gift. It’s customary to bring a small gift to a Chinese company dinner. This could be anything from a box of chocolates to a bottle of wine. Make sure you wrap the gift nicely, as presentation is important in Chinese culture.
4. Don’t start eating before the host. In Chinese dining etiquette, it’s considered impolite to start eating before the host has taken the first bite. Wait until your boss or the most senior person at the table has started eating before you tuck in.
5. Do use your chopsticks correctly. If you’re not used to using chopsticks, practice before the dinner. Don’t wave your chopsticks around, don’t spear your food with them, and don’t use them to point at people. When you’re not using your chopsticks, place them on the chopstick rest.
6. Don’t leave food on your plate. In Chinese culture, leaving food on your plate is considered wasteful. It’s better to take a smaller portion and ask for more later if you’re still hungry.
Surprising Fact: Did you know that in Chinese culture, it’s considered impolite to pour your own drink? Always offer to pour drinks for your colleagues, and accept drinks when they offer to pour for you.
Other interesting facts to consider:
- Chinese people often toast each other during a meal. When you toast, make sure you clink your glass lower than the other person’s glass, as a sign of respect.
- If someone offers you a dish, it’s polite to take a small portion and say “thank you”. If you don’t like the dish, you can politely decline by saying “no thank you”.
- Don’t use your phone during the dinner. It’s considered rude to check your phone or take calls during a meal.
- If you’re not sure how to address someone, use their title (e.g. “Manager Li”) until you’re told otherwise.
- If you’re served tea, it’s polite to pour tea for your colleagues before pouring for yourself.
Overall, the key to a successful Chinese company dinner is to be respectful and polite. Remember, your colleagues will appreciate the effort you’re making to learn about their culture and traditions. If you’re not sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask. Your colleagues will be happy to help you navigate the intricacies of Chinese dining etiquette.
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