For Westerners it is sometimes difficult to know what the do’s and don’ts are with chopsticks. There are certain ways to handle them so today we talk about chopstick etiquette.
Chopsticks are not toys
The secret of chopsticks are that they should be used as little as possible, they are only for eating. Pointing them at things, hovering them over dishes as you decide what to eat are both taboo. You saliva might be on the end of the chopstick and it is seen as taboo obviously, to share your ummm spittle with everyone else. Chopsticks are a Japanese cultural item and should be treated with respect.
Only one pair please
If someone is picking up food from the same dish as you to put in their plate, keep your chopsticks out of it and wait your turn. It is seen as bad form to grab food from the same dish at the same time as someone else.
No mining for food
When selecting food from a bowl, take the item closest from the top. Digging in a dish for the best piece is frown upon.
Stabbing that meat to death
If it is difficult to pick up a piece of food with your chopsticks, you might be tempted to stab at it. Don’t! It is seen as mildly rude!
No stick can be a spoon
If you ever had Miso Soup you know that it settles at the bottom of the bowl. Recently I learned that it is bad form to stir your soup with chopsticks because it looks like you are trying to clean your chopsticks in the soup. Besides in Japan like many other countries it is okay to drink directly from the soup bowl, no spoon needed. And if your chopsticks are messy by the way, leave it messy, since any attempt to clean them is seen as rude.
Eating is not a funeral ritual
It is rude to hand someone food with your chopsticks and them taking it from your chopsticks with theirs. It is taboo because it resembles a Japanese funeral ritual.
To have and to hold
Many tables in Japanese restaurants have chopstick holders and it is good to use them if you are not eating. They are convenient necessities to keep dirty chopsticks off the table and a dirty table off the chopsticks. If there is no chopstick holder make one with the paper that was wrapped around you chopsticks or leave them in your plate.
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