The standard eating procedure is to hold the bowl close to your mouth and shovel in the contents without any qualms. Place bones or seeds in a small dish or on the table beside your bowl. Do not point or play with your chopsticks, or to place them on top of your rice bowl when you're finished eating (place the chopsticks horizontally on the table or plate). Avoid leaving your chopsticks standing up in a bowl of rice—they look like the two incense sticks burned at funerals.

Meals and Mealtimes

Meals in China are served early: breakfast until 9 am, lunch between 11 and 2, and dinner from 5 to 9. Snack anytime at stalls selling grilled meats, bowls of noodle soup, and the ubiquituous baozi (steamed buns stuffed with meat or veggies).


At most restaurants you ask for the bill (mai dan) at the end of the meal, as you do back home. At cheap noodle bars and street stands you often pay up front. Only very upmarket restaurants accept credit cards.

Reservations and Dress

Regardless of where you are, it's a good idea to make a reservation if you can. For popular restaurants, book as far ahead as you can and reconfirm when you arrive. (Large parties should always call ahead to check the reservations policy.) We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie.

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