One of the most common family affairs in a Chinese family is eating. This is an ancient tradition wherein customs and highly regarded values are integrated. This is not intended only to nourish our body, but also to strengthen ties in the family. It helps us to celebrate togetherness, as well as a bit of indulgence on food. When a girlfriend with Chinese ethnicity invites us to dine with their family, this could be a sign that we are being welcomed.
There are a few things we should know about our girlfriend’s family and how family dinner is conducted. Elders and older people can be assigned to special seats as signs of respect. Their seats can be the farthest away from the entrance and face outward. We should have a common courtesy with these elders and make sure we know where they sit.
When we eat out, people who pay for the bill may have special place, so get our wallet ready if we sit with our back is in front of the entrance.
Like people in the west, basic table manners are often similar, except for a few things. We should be quiet and talk politely. It is also inappropriate to refuse food that people offer to us. Often, people will use chopsticks, but they find it acceptable if we choose spoons due to our least expertise in using it.
Double-dipping is a more acceptable practice in some Chinese families and we may need to get used to it.
We should always wait for our turn and let our hosts fill their plates first. We should always make sure that our Chinese girlfriend gets the food first, before we serve ourselves. In many cases, Asian women like to do this for their boyfriends or husbands, so we can take turns if necessary.
This will show to the family that we can take care of their daughter or sister.
When the family is eating seafood, it’s acceptable to spit fish bones and bits of shells into a separate plate or napkin. However, due to possible difference in values, we should observe and make others are doing this. In some Chinese families, people compliment those who prepared the meal by burping loudly.
We should make sure to communicate to our girlfriends about these habits, to make sure that what we do is acceptable for the family.
If we and the family have no problem drinking, it is possible to bond quite quickly with the family. However, occasional drinkers may struggle to keep pace if they have problem drinking. We shouldn’t refuse a drink and it isn’t appropriate to just take small sip. The depth of our relationship with the family can be reflected by deep drinking. If there’s a reason to celebrate, we should join the occasion.
Eating together is a small celebration in any Chinese family and we should show them how much we enjoy eating. We should show signs of celebration, so we can be welcomed into the family.