In ancient China, the foods you ate and how you ate them defined your family's social class. Now, this defines how your parents raised you.
As a matter of etiquette, no one …sits at the table until the most senior member, or guest of honor, is seated. Likewise, guests should not begin eating until the host has stated it is time to do so.
At a typical American restaurant, everyone places his or her own order. However, at authentic Chinese restaurants, the host does the ordering.
If you are given a cloth napkin, it is common to place the corner of the napkin under your dish and let the main portion of the napkin hang into your lap to catch any fallen food.
The host will order more than three dishes. Everyone shares each dish, so get ready to eat many different dishes!
When dining, elders always eat first. The elders eat, then the youngest, then you. You always serve yourself last to show respect to all the other family members.
There will always be tea when dining at a Chinese restaurant. You should always pour tea for your elders before pouring tea for yourself. When pouring your tea, hold down the top of the lid.
A Chinese emperor used to travel his kingdom undercover. He would pour tea for his guards, which would in turn lightly tap the table with two fingers in place of bowing. The Chinese used the tap to show thanks after someone pours tea.
Unless you are the oldest person at the table, you must hold your tea with both hands when toasting. A one-handed toast shows laziness and disrespect to everyone at the table.
Before eating the main dishes, meals start with soup. The only condiments for the soup are red vinegar, and white pepper.
You should always lift your bowl when eating. The proper way of doing this is to place your thumb on the rim of the bowl and first, middle, and third fingers supporting the bottom of the bowl. Your palm should be empty.
Chopsticks are multi-useful. If there are no ladles, spoons, or forks, use the back end of your chopsticks to take food from the Lazy Susan.
Never stick your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl because it is a sign of bad luck and disrespect. This is also a sign of burning incense for the dead.
No matter how bad you want to, do not pour Soy Sauce onto your rice! Your rice serves as a palate cleanser, which takes away the saltiness or spice from your food.
Do not use chopsticks for stabbing your food; grab it to the best of your ability. If you cannot use chopsticks, ask for a fork.
There will most likely be a fish at your table. Remove the bone from the fish instead of flipping it. The fisherman in China used to do this in respect of the boat that they caught this fish on.
Whatever you do, never point your chopsticks at someone while talking. It is a very disrespectful act that can cause an awkward moment at the table.
When finishing a meal, thank your hosts by saying "Gochisosama-deshita" (or "Gochisosama" for less formal scenarios). Your hosts will appreciate it greatly and you will have proved you know how their culture works.