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The Different Food Cultures between China and Western Countries

Posted on 2015-10-29 | Written by Leo

When it comes to cultural heritage, every society has what it believes is right for its people. Norms differ at various levels, some of which include gender roles, leadership styles and even cooking. You only need to compare between the Chinese and the Western food cultures in order to get a glimpse of how wide cultural differences can be. The Chinese have always been known to maintain some degree of originality in everything they do, and cooking is no exception. Join me therefore as I introduce you to a real Chinese dining situation.

Extravagance versus simplicity affair
In the Chinese culture, food is viewed as an extravagant affair which essentially means that in addition to having mealtimes that feature all manner of dishes, the meals often serve as an occasion to share and socialize among members of the same family or social circle. As opposed to the Western simplistic approach on food, the Chinese do not only view food as a necessity for human survival. This could be the reason why the Chinese are known to be sociable and generous people, as meal times are not only feeding times, but occasions to forge relations as well.

Punctuality as opposed to lateness
Another difference between the Chinese and Western food cultures is with regards to punctuality. In the Western culture, meals often follow precise scheduling. Lateness is not acceptable unless it is within a very short window of 10 minutes. On the other hand, lateness is part and parcel of the Chinese food culture. It is not unusual to see a host arranging entertainment and serving tea and desserts before unveiling the main course. This is believed to be a tool for forging good relations between the host and the guests and getting them to understand each other better, even before the occasion for which the guests are present formally commences. The Chinese have taught that when we make meals follow strict schedules, they become more of an inconvenience as we are often bogged down with demands of time as opposed to the more critical issue of enjoying the occasion.

Sitting arrangement
The manner in which people sit during meal time is also a major difference between the Chinese and the Western food culture. The Chinese prefer the north and south sitting arrangement while the Western culture goes with the right and left sitting arrangement. The Chinese sitting arrangement comes from the fact that guests from long time ago were all facing north when they met the emperor. On the other hand, the Western culture draws its sitting arrangement from a traditional norm where the most distinguished guests were often seated on the left hand side of the host. If you look keenly, you will find that the Chinese sitting arrangement was inspired by a sense of reverence for their leaders. The north is always viewed as the upper or front side [even when it is not] and it is the side where their emperors would sit as they addressed their soldiers or subjects.

Drinks and cutlery
It is also worth mentioning that the Chinese prefer chopsticks as opposed to the folks and spoons that are generally used in the Western nations. This is yet another living proof of the extent that the Chinese will go in preserving their tradition. In addition, the Chinese meals often feature a wide range of drinks. The drinks could range from caffeinated drinks such as coffee to even beer in a single meal course. The basis of this is that everyone can at least find a drink that catches their fancy and that no one feels left out of the meal occasion. On the other hand, most meals in the Western cultures only feature beer or wine.

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