Why Leaving Chopsticks in Rice Bowl Is Offensive

Why Leaving Chopsticks In Bowl Is An Insult

Plus The Top 11 Tips On Asian Chopstick Etiquette In 2024

A few of the interesting cultural practices in the world are the noisy slurping of noodles by the Chinese; the rigorous pedestrian crossing guidelines by the Germans; the use of vodka to say hello or welcome your friends in Russia; and the strictly-no-tipping-rule in Korea. 

Why Leaving Chopsticks in a Bowl Is Rude and Not Good Practice?

Now, Asian culture, particularly the Japanese culture, has rich practices that are strictly followed by the citizens. One of them is the proper etiquette in using chopsticks. As much as you love Japanese food, you also have to love and follow their strict beliefs in using chopsticks while eating.

If leaving a pair of chopsticks in an upright position at your table is not a big deal, then you are probably not Japanese or at least, not in Japan. There are a lot of people who are very much interested in table manners and communal plate culture and in the questions like these:

“Is Sticking chopsticks in rice bad luck?”

“Is licking chopsticks disrespectful?”

“Why is it rude to leave chopsticks in food?”

“Why are chopsticks in hair offensive.”

Let’s get to know the chopsticks etiquette and the reason behind

Japanese dining etiquette and this belief.

What is a Salad Spoon etiquette?

How To Use Your Chopsticks Without Offending Your Guests
How To Use Your Chopsticks Without Offending Your Guests

What You Should Never Do With Chopsticks

1. Do not stick your chopsticks vertically into the bowl of food

Let’s talk about Japanese table manners

In Japan, leaving your pair of chopsticks (or any eating utensil) in a vertical or upright position is considered disrespectful since it is only done on specific occasions.

The Shinto and Buddhist religions see a bowl of rice (which is a grain) as an essential offering with the chopsticks positioned vertically from the bowl. While Japanese funerals are done by having a bowl of rice left with a pair of chopsticks standing vertically in the center.

It is also said to bring bad luck most of the time when a chopstick holder or chopstick rest is placed beside your plate or bowl to make use of it when not eating.  This is gaining traction also in Korean culture and to some extent Chinese culture.

Same when you are in a Japanese restaurant eating sushi. Sushi rice – how much per person?

2. Do not pass the food from chopstick to chopstick

 Passing the food from chopstick to chopstick is considered inappropriate because it is also funeral-relayed. Japanese funerals follow the tradition of passing the remaining bones from one person to another using a pair of chopsticks until they are out under the sun. Hence, this practice should not be applied during dining and other circumstances. 

If you want to share your food, make the other person take it using their own utensil. Or keep your slice of sashimi for yourself and certainly do not pass ramen noodles!

Or just follow the Asian’s way of sharing their food by putting it directly on the other person’s plate, using a serving utensil that is often provided with the dish.

3. Do not use unmatched chopsticks

Asians, especially Chinese, are very strict in using the same length of chopsticks. (Why cheap chopsticks are not very popular). Otherwise, unmatched ones are considered to bring misfortune. The Chinese associate the line “sān cháng liǎng duǎn” to unmatched chopsticks. This means, “three long, two short”, which is the unequaled length of wood you need to build for a coffin. 

Similar rules apply to a serving chopstick.

Likewise, reusable style of chopsticks are not often used or common and you will see in Asia many styles of disposable wooden chopsticks. Which is good as they are much more environmentally good than the plastic chopsticks.

Family Using Chopsticks
Family Using Wooden Chopsticks

4. Do not leave chopsticks crossed

Under Japanese etiquette, people would directly assume that if you happen to leave your chopsticks crossed or in the top of the rice bowl, this means you feel unhappy and unsatisfied with the meal.

Similar to Korean chopsticks – many of the cultures in Asia follow a similar practice – Vietnamese are also influenced by Japanese chopstick etiquette as well as French culture when eating a dish.

More so, Chinese people would perceive chopsticks that are placed in “X” or across the individual bowls as a symbol of death. This could offend the person who cooked it, especially if you are a visitor in a private residence, 

The best thing to do is to either leave the pairs of chopsticks parallel to each other, place it on the chopstick holder beside your rice bowl, or not on the bowl at all. 

5. Do not eat directly from shared plates or bowls

The Asian culture practices using several bowls for different dishes in the dining table. It is impolite and rude for them to see you getting large chunks of food from the shared bowls and put it directly on your mouth. Hence, to follow the proper etiquette, you should take a bite-sized piece of food from your own plates set first. Then put the food into your bowl and then eat it as you like. Just take enough before it is all gone.

6. Do not use it to stab or hover the food

If you are not good at eating with chopsticks, then this might be something hard for you. Stabbing the food with chopsticks is bad table manners in Asian countries, especially in Japan and China. Regardless if it is rice, meat, eggs, nuggets, or kimchi, do not use your chopstick to get it through stabbing or hovering. It is considered impolite to hover your food and keep it to yourself. 

The proper thing to do is to use it as a knife to cut your food if necessary. Or you can tear it apart if it is fish or meat. You can also use the other cutlery around you. Never stab it and pick it up in large pieces. Just take a small portion of fo

7. Do not suck, bite,  or rub 

One of the disgusting and inappropriate things you could do on the Asian dining table is to leave your personal chopsticks in your mouth. Sucking or chewing on is unhygienic and should be avoided. The best thing that you can do when you are done eating is to place them to the side of your bowl or in the chopstick holder if provided in some places. 

You should not bite your chopsticks every time you eat, too. Asians use their chopsticks to pick up meat, pice, or any solid food served on the table. Otherwise, leaving a bite mark is considered improper and childish, especially if it is not your personal chopsticks. 

Moreover, rubbing your chopsticks is inappropriate in chopstick etiquette. Though some do this in a private setting to smoothen out the texture and avoid splinters. But during formal Asian dining, rubbing it is considered as giving an implication that the restaurant you’re in does not use high-quality chopsticks, especially if you are using stainless steel chopsticks. 

How To Not Be Rude With Chopsticks
How To Not Be Rude With Chopsticks

8. Do not use it to point objects and people

Pointing your finger to some object and people is improper for other countries. It is also the same thing if you use chopsticks. It is offensive for Asians to point it towards other people as well as to the food on the table. You must be careful since it is common for Asians to engage in conversations during a meal. It is an opportunity for them to catch up with one another, thus following dining etiquette is very important for them. 

9. Do not use it as a drum stick

We know that chopsticks are very similar to drum ticks and are very tempting to smash them a little bit on the table. However, some cultures in Asia associate this action with beggars who are trying to gain attention in the street. With that, it is a disturbing manner to smash it on the table. It also disturbs other guests or restaurant-goers who are peacefully eating in public. It is better to well-maintained and put your hands on your lap if you are not eating.

10. Do not allow liquids to drip from it

In Asian culture, particularly in Japan, they are very particular in keeping the dining table clean and proper while eating. And dripping the sauce or soup relates to “namida bashi” for Japanese that means tears and sadness. Though there will be times that it cannot be avoided, that is why never forget to excuse or apologize for it.

11. Chopsticks in hair offensive – Yes

Hair is considered very personal as is the head in many Asian cultures, and putting chopsticks in your hair is just not a good practice from a food hygiene point of view, not even mentioning the cultural aspect.

Chopstick Styles
Chopstick Styles

What Can’t You Eat With Chopsticks

Know that there are certain food types that are appropriate to eat with chopsticks. That is why other cutlery are served with it like fork and knife. Here are some of them:

  • Jello and pudding
  • Steaks 
  • Sandwiches
  • miso soup
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Ribs
  • Pizza
  • Hot dogs

but putting a bit of wasabi in an individuals’ chopsticks is ok for a sushi piece flavor.

Why do Asians Eat With Chopsticks

Asians, especially Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and Taiwanese are using chopsticks instead of the usual spoon and fork during mealtime. This is because the use of chopsticks started thousands of years ago (Shang Dynasty) during the scarcity of resources in Asia.

The early chopsticks were made with bronze to be used primarily for cooking only. It was designed longer to reach deep pots during cooking. Until the scarcity of resources happened in 400 BC that cooks started chopping small pieces of food to save cooking oil. Until then, the Chinese realized that chopsticks were perfect for moving these bite-sized pieces from bowl to mouth.

Moreover, Confucius himself believed that the use of chopsticks ais better since it has dull ends compared to knives. Sharp utensils like knives are associated with the gruesome way of killing the animals for food, thus it reminds the eaters of the slaughterhouse. 

Since then, the use of chopsticks when eating is spread in Japan, Vietnam, Korea, and Thailand. 

Wrap Up

If you have traveled to several countries, you surely have realized that different places have different cultural practices. And following their respective etiquettes is a must to show respect and honor, especially if you are a foreigner in their land. However, the tips above are just for you to follow, and no need to freak out. Keep your calm and enjoy your Asian food!