developed about 5,000 years ago in
China. It is likely that people cooked
their food in large pots which held
heat for a long time, and hasty eaters
then broke twigs off trees to retrieve
the food. By 400 B.C., because of a
large population and dwindling
rescources, food waas chopped into
small pieces so it could be cooked
rapidly to conserve fuel.
The pieces of
food were small enough that they
negated the need for knives at the
dinner table, and thus, chopsticks
became staple utensils. It is also
thought that Confucius, a vegetarian,
advised people not to use knives at
the table because knives would remind
them of the slaughterhouse. Chinese
chopsticks, called kuai-zi
(quick little fellows), are usually 9
to 10 inches long and rectangular with
a blunt end. By A.D. 500, chopstick
use had spread from China to present
day Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.
Manners in China
Don't stick your
chopsticks upright in the rice bowl.
Instead, lay them on your dish. The
reason for this is that when somebody
dies, the shrine to them contains a
bowl of sand or rice with two sticks
of incense stuck upright in it. So if
you stick your chopsticks in the rice
bowl, it looks like this shrine and is
equivalent to wishing death upon a
person at the table!
Make sure the
spout of the teapot is not facing
anyone. It is impolite to set the
teapot down where the spout is facing
towards somebody. The spout should
always be directed to where nobody is
sitting, usually just outward from the
Don't tap on
your bowl with your chopsticks.
Beggars tap on their bowls, so this is
not polite. Also, when the food is
coming too slow in a restaurant,
people will tap their bowls. If you
are in someone's home, it is like
insulting the cook.
In Japan, you
say "itadakimasu" ("I gratefully
receive") before starting to eat, and
"gochisosama (deshita)" ("Thank you
for the meal") after finishing the
Individual versus shared dishes
It is not uncommon in private
households and in certain restaurants
(e.g. izakaya) to share several dishes
of food at the table rather than
serving each person with his/her
individual dish. In such a case, you
are supposed to move some food from
the shared plates onto your own plate
by yourself, using the opposite end of
your chopsticks (if you have used them
already) or with special chopsticks
that may be provided for that purpose.
Some of the
most important chopstick rules are:
Hold your chopsticks towards their
end, and not in the middle or the
When you are not using your chopsticks
and when you are finished eating, lay
them down in front of you with the tip
Do not stick chopsticks into your
food, especially not into rice. Only
at funerals are chopsticks stuck into
the rice that is put onto the altar.
Do not pass food with your chopsticks
directly to somebody else's
chopsticks. Only at funerals are the
bones of the cremated body given in
that way from person to person.
Do not spear food with your
Do not point with your chopsticks to
something or somebody.
Do not move your chopsticks around in
the air too much, nor play with them.
Do not move around plates or bowls
To separate a piece of food into two
pieces, exert controlled pressure on
the chopsticks while moving them apart
from each other. This needs much
If you have already used your
chopsticks, use the opposite end of
your chopsticks in order to move food
from a shared plate to your own plate.
chopsticks are doi dua. Saying
the English word is considered crude.
Try not to let
your chopsticks touch your mouth. Only
the food should touch your mouth.
Only pick up one
piece of food at a time. Chopsticks
are not shovels.
Always place the
food on your plate or in your rice
bowl first; then pick it back up and
eat it. Never eat directly from the
Do not use your
chopsticks as spears.
If you find
yourself in danger of death by either
starvation or embarrassment, it is
perfectly acceptable to confess your
inadequacy and ask for a fork. But
confess your inadequacy; don't just
ask for a fork...
dining is a social occasion. Be
prepared for constant interaction. If
the meal is particularly formal, you
are unlikely to be allowed to serve
yourself. Your host will make sure you
have ample food.
Don't take a
second helping of anything until you
have tried a helping of each dish. In
the southern areas of the country, a
"helping" is about one tablespoon.
cook on each dish after you have
The meat is the
most important (and the most costly)
ingredient in any meal. Leave some of
it for others.
It is polite to
use both hands when offering something
or passing something. The same is true
for accepting something. The
Vietnamese will nod at each other as
the pass a dish.
Do NOT hunt and
peck to find the "good stuff" on a
serving plate. Doing so will leave
your guests with a low opinion of you.
Never return a
piece of food from your plate to the
Western countries, it is NOT okay to
turn down a second or third helping.
To do so might be considered an
insult. Begin early to talk about how
FULL you are and then reluctantly
agree to the seconds (and thirds) your
host offers you.
If you don't
know what to do, say so.
Finally, if you
have been invited in advance to a meal
in a Vietnamese home, bring a present.
Sweets are common. So is tea or
coffee. Flowers will also do; but be
aware that white is the color of death
Get Sup Ni Da
spoon or chopsticks before the elders
do is not considered mannered.
meal before the elders do is not
considered mannered, either.
wine or any kind of beverage to the
elders, use both hands to hold the
When your cup
is poured by the elders, use both
hands to hold the cup.
If you are
drinking in front of elders, turn your
torso a bit (20 degree) to the side
and drink .
meal, always tell your hostess, " Jal
Muk Get Sup Ni Da."
I will have a
good meal- (Thank you for the meal.)
meal, "Jal Muk Ut Sup Ni Da."
I had a good
meal - (That was very good.)
In old times,
having meals was the most important
thing for a Korean.
In Korea, people still asks each other
"Have you had lunch (or dinner)?"
instead of "How are you?"