Guest Post: Food Preferences and Dining Etiquette in a Southern Chinese Home

I’m thrilled to share this guest post from Maria Deng, who authored AMWF Couples — A Canadian Perspective, one of my favorite AMWF guest posts on this blog. This time she writes about a topic I’m sure you all love — food!

Do you have a story about dining in your home or another guest post you’d like to see featured here? Have a look at the submit a post page to learn how you can follow in Maria’s footsteps.

My husband’s family is from the province of Guangdong, which is located in Southern China. In this part of China, they speak Cantonese. I have always known dinner to be 吃饭, which translates to ‘eat rice’. When I first had dinner at my husband’s home, I noticed many differences in not only the food served however, in the dining etiquette as well.

Pot Of Apple Soup, Prepared By Maria’s Mother-In-Law
Pot Of Apple Soup, Prepared By Maria’s Mother-In-Law

The Importance Of Soup

I noticed that my husband’s family had a small bowl of 汤 (soup) at the beginning of each meal. My 家婆 (mother-in-law) or 老爺 (father-in-law) would say 喝汤 (drink soup) before drinking. I began searching for the spoon at my place setting however, my husband had told me that soup is consumed by bringing one’s bowl up to their mouths. Afterwards, the pieces of meat or other items in the soup would be eaten with chopsticks once the liquid was finished. After the first few times of eating at my husband’s home, I then realized that this was much easier than eating soup with a spoon. Now, I always drink my soup in this fashion, without even giving the spoon a second thought.

An Entire Fish, Prepared By Maria’s Father-In-Law
An Entire Fish, Prepared By Maria’s Father-In-Law

Fish Eye

I also saw an entire fish being served for the first time at the dinner table. I didn’t know that fish was served in this fashion however, upon seeing it, I was told by my husband that 鱼 (fish) is quite important in the Chinese culture. I was surprised though when I first saw my husband eating the fish’s eyeball with such ease, something that to this day, I have yet to muster up the courage and try.

Pass The Toothpicks

Using toothpicks to clean one’s teeth after a meal was something I had never seen before. I noticed this happened at all of my husband’s family functions. When cleaning the teeth with a toothpick, one would place their hand in front of their mouth, which made it impossible to see the mouth or teeth. It was definitely a cultural difference for me as I had never seen that before however, I have become accustomed to it, welcoming the gesture with comfort.

Steamed White Rice

I always noticed a rice cooker filled with steamed, white rice on the counter-top when dining with my husband’s family. At first, I said to my husband, “is there any sauce or dressing that goes on top of this rice?” My husband then laughed, stating that in the Chinese culture, eating steamed, white rice was normal. I have now learned to eat steamed, white rice at times however, I do tend to slip in some sauce, which immediately brings a friendly roar of laughter from my husband’s family.

Maria ‘Attempting’ To Use Chopsticks
Maria ‘Attempting’ To Use Chopsticks

Chopsticks Or Fork?

Using 筷子 (chopsticks) was definitely a struggle for me. I had used chopsticks in the past when eating sushi however, rarely when eating other types of food such as rice, meat, or vegetables. I often struggled when dining with my husband’s family, which made me feel embarrassed at times. Luckily, I was given a pair of ‘beginner chopsticks’, which helped in making the necessary transition. However, I still struggle to this day when eating certain foods. Luckily, my mother-in-law places a fork on the table in-case needed.

These are just a few of the differences I have noticed, with many more as each dinner passes. However, embracing these differences have allowed me to form a deep appreciation for the food and etiquette one’s culture can bring to the table.

Have you noticed any food preferences or dining etiquette differences in the home of a friend or partner? If so, I would love to hear about them!

Maria Deng currently resides in Ontario, Canada with her husband Joey, who originally hails from Guangzhou, China. She loves reading about AMWF relationships, and looks forward to writing more about her experiences being married to a Chinese man.

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up now and receive an email whenever I publish new blog posts. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

8 Replies to “Guest Post: Food Preferences and Dining Etiquette in a Southern Chinese Home”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I learned about this during school when visiting the homes of my Chinese friends. We’d take off our shoes, and apparently there are some things you shouldn’t do with the chopsticks like stick them into the rice vertically.

    1. Thank you Marjo for your reply! I have heard about the chopsticks that need to be held a certain way however, I haven’t heard about the shoes. It’s definitely very interesting how different each culture can be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: