Chopstick Etiquette

Acquiring chopstick etiquette is an important part of having good dining etiquette and of course, sushi etiquette. Most Chinese and Sushi Restaurants will offer them and it is good manners to accept and feel comfortable with how to use them.

Many companies now work globally and so you may find yourself seated with clients from the Far East; being confident with using your chopsticks means you can concentrate fully on entertaining your clients. 

When I was young, going out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant was a rare treat. Nowadays Chinese, Thai and Sushi restaurants are commonplace and are seen as pretty standard cuisine in the UK.

Learning how to use chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant as a young girl always seemed very exotic to me; whether it was the glamorous waitresses in their cheongsam dresses, the little waterfall fountains in the entrance of the restaurant or the piped Dizi instrumental music, the whole experience seemed to have a slightly mystical feel about it.

Fast forward 35 years and Chinese takeaways don’t quite have the same feel as those early memories!

One point to make on Thai Cuisine is that they only use chopsticks occasionally for noodles or rice. Thais use a spoon and fork, but not in the same way as westerners. The fork is never to go into your mouth, you use it to push your food onto your spoon which is the only utensil you put in your mouth.

A good rule of thumb is, if the server provides chopsticks then feel free to use them, otherwise just stay with the spoon and fork.

How to use them to ensure good Chopstick Etiquette

1. Hold your first chopstick in the web of your hand, between the bottom of the thumb and the index finger, resting on the tip of the ring finger; the bottom chopstick remains still.

2. Grasp the remaining chopstick as you would hold a pencil, between your index finger and middle finger with your thumb holding it in place. This chopstick does the moving.

3. Using your index finger and your middle finger, move the upper chopstick to pick up food.

What to do and what not to do!

  • Never suck on the chopsticks
  • Never point or gesture with your chopsticks
  • Never pass food or take food from another person’s chopstick
  • Don’t hold chopsticks too tightly; it is easier to move them if held loosely
  • Don’t hold chopsticks too close to the tip as you will lose leverage making it difficult to pick up food
  • Don’t rub chopsticks together to remove splinters, it’s considered rude and insinuates that the chopsticks are cheap
  • You may cut food with your chopsticks or take several bites whist you are holding it
  • Between bites you should place your chopsticks on the rests provided or lay them across the lower dish or plate. Don’t leave them pointing upright in your rice or soup bowl
  • Don't place chopsticks over a rice bowl in the position of 12:30 as this position is ceremonial
  • Do not place chopsticks on the table at any time
  • When you have finished eating place the chopsticks diagonally across the top edge of the rice bowl or side plate

Other Dining Etiquette subjects to learn on this site:

Table Etiquette

Place Setting Etiquette

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The Author, Emma Dupont, runs various courses in London during the year.

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