Jun 13, 2022 | Samuel Albert

Chopstick Etiquette That You Should Learn

You must be excited to use your chopsticks now that you are skilled at using chopsticks, just like a native. But similar to Western table manners, many dos and don'ts revolve around the use of chopsticks. Being ignorant doesn't offer you an excuse, and you can be considered rude even if you didn't mean to. So, it is good to stay informed of what the chopstick tradition teaches us about its basic politesse.

PHOTO BY Juan Encalada / UNSPLASH 

Some of the basic etiquettes of chopsticks are:

  1. Never rub the chopsticks together.
  2. Never stick the chopsticks on a bowl of rice.
  3. Never put chopsticks in the hair.
  4. Never break chopsticks in the end, but one can break the ones that have a groove in the end and use them as a table rest for the chopsticks.
  5. Never pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another.
  6. Never leave the chopsticks crossed on a plate or a bowl.
  7. Never point the chopsticks at someone.
  8. Never poke the food with chopsticks.
  9. Never use one chopstick at a time; use both of them at all times.

    Let us go through some commonly asked questions about chopsticks and educate ourselves about chopstick decorum in Asian culture.

    1. Why do we rub chopsticks together?

    The gesture of rubbing chopsticks together means you are trying to eliminate the splinters from the cheap chopsticks. This is rude, especially when you are a guest, as it indirectly demeans your host. So, remember to avoid doing this at all costs.

    1. Why is it disrespectful to put chopsticks in rice?

    PHOTO BY Mgg Vitchakorn / UNSPLASH 

    Never do this in a house that has welcomed you as a guest for a meal. Sticking your chopsticks in the upright position in a bowl of food or rice means you want to pay your respect to your deceased ancestor. This is seen as inappropriate as it symbolizes the use of incense in a funeral. It is also seen as an act of bringing on a curse.

    1. Why you shouldn't put chopsticks in your hair?

    Chopsticks are meant to be eaten with and not worn in your hair, that's why. However, people who use it as part of their daily cutlery can find sticking chopsticks to the hair culturally inappropriate and even humiliating. For them, cutlery belongs to the plate, and it is a shame to use it on your hair for decoration.

    PHOTO BY ivabalk  / PIXABAY

    Some think it is vogue, but no, it is not. It is offensive to wear it on your hair as in Far Eastern tradition, food is considered to be holistic and is to be respected.

    1. Are you supposed to break the wooden block at the end of the chopsticks?

    No, you don't. The wooden block at the end of the chopsticks is not designed to snap off and thus can break off unevenly, resulting in splinters and damaging them. So, don't break off the wooden ends of the chopsticks.

    In recent days, however, they have designed a groove between the wooden end and the chopsticks to snap them off cleanly without causing any uneven chipping. The tips of the chopsticks are intended to be propped up on this wooden block on the dining table, serving as a chopstick stand while the chopsticks are not in use. So, inspect closely before opting to break them off to find if you have the breakable or the unbreakable one.

    1. Why should we not pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another?

    The bones during a funeral are passed from one pair of chopsticks to another. Thus, the passing of food from chopsticks to chopsticks is considered a remembrance of a funeral or death. So, kindly avoid it.

    If you want to pass food to another person, place the food in a bowl or plate and pass it down.

    1. Why should you never leave your chopsticks crossed at the table?

    Placing the chopsticks crossed is a symbol of death in China. In Japan, it is considered impolite. So, always keep your chopsticks parallel to each other while resting them on the bowl or table.

    PHOTO BY Cup of Couple / PEXELS

    1. Why should you never point your chopsticks at someone?

    We know that it is rude to point our fingers at someone else in our culture. Likewise, pointing to someone with chopsticks is considered disrespectful in Asian culture. So, never point your chopsticks at someone at the table. 

    1. Why should you never poke your food with chopsticks?

    While you might have trouble grasping your food with your chopsticks and resort to an easy method of poking through them to keep them on your chopsticks, it is considered impolite. The act of poking your food can be easily misunderstood as checking if the food is well cooked or not. Thus, it is an insult to the chef. So, it is a big no-no.

    1. Why should you never use one chopstick for eating?

    Eating the meal set before you with one chopstick can be relatively easy. However, when it becomes two, it is a knack that requires a lot of practice as you battle to hold, grasp, and eat simultaneously. But unfortunately, it is considered bad manners in Asian tradition. Therefore, it is best to get trained well in advance on using a pair of chopsticks when you have an upcoming dinner invitation that requires chopstick expertise.

    PHOTO BY Alexas_Fotos / PIXABAY

    1. How to clean the chopsticks to keep them hygienic?

    Warm water and dish soap mostly work well. A quick soaking episode followed by a thorough cleaning with water and drying them with a soft cloth is all that is required.

    Oily stains and smells can be removed by using baking soda, lime juice, and water in equal proportions. Rock salt is yet another alternative to remove stains.

    Are your chopsticks still smelly? If the above ingredients didn't remove the smell, consider using vinegar and water in equal parts instead.

    Store your chopsticks in a well-ventilated spot in your kitchen, away from direct light and heat.

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