It is becoming more and more popular for foreigners to be invited into Chinese homes for dinner. Even business associates may receive an invitation to be entertained at their Chinese counterpart’s home. Learn the proper etiquette for visiting a Chinese home.
1. Be sure to either accept or decline the invitation. If you must decline, it is important to give a specific reason as to why you can’t attend.
If you are vague, the host may think you are not interested in having a relationship with him or her.
2. At the entrance to many homes, you may see a rack of shoes. Depending on the home, the host may greet you at the door in slippers or even stocking or bare feet. If this is the case, take off your shoes. The host may give you a pair of slippers or sandals or you may just walk around in your socks or bare feet. In some homes, a separate, communal pair of plastic sandals is worn when using the restroom.
3. Bring a gift. The gift may or may not be opened in front of you. You can suggest the gift be opened in your presence but don’t push the issue.
4. Guests will be immediately served tea whether you want it or not. It is impolite to request a drink or request an alternate beverage.
5. The mother or wife is typically the person who will prepare the meal. Since Chinese meals are served course-by-course, the cook may not join in the feast until after all dishes have been served.
Dishes tend to be served family style. Some restaurants and homes will have separate chopsticks for serving the dishes while others may not.
6. Follow the lead of the host and serve yourself, however, he or she serves himself or herself. Eat when the host eats. Be sure to eat plenty of food to show you are enjoying it but don’t eat the last bit of any dish.
If you finish off any dish, it will signal that the cook has not prepared enough food. Leaving a small amount of food is good manners.
7. Do not leave immediately once the meal has concluded. Stay for 30 minutes to an hour to show you have enjoyed your meal and their company.