Where Are Your Chopsticks?


Don’t speak with your mouth full! Keep your elbows off the table. Place the napkin across your lap. 

These are some common rules we follow at the table. Dining etiquette is based on courtesy, comfort, and common sense but what is considered common sense in cultures outside of North America? How good is our knowledge about the table manners in other countries?

Living in Vancouver, there are a lot of opportunities to indulge in the plethora of ethnic cuisines found in the city. Unsurprisingly, we commit table manner blunders all the time and our ignorance is forgiven with smiles. It never hurts to be aware of the world around us and we will all gain extra points by being great guests and showing respect for the customs of our hosts.

I work in a popular Teppanyaki restaurant in downtown Vancouver and every shift I observe guests unknowingly perform one of Japan’s biggest chopstick faux-pas! They stick chopsticks vertically in their rice bowl. Having lived in Korea for a few months, where they have similar etiquette, and also visiting Japan I have some understanding of these table manners.

The majority of our serving staff is from Japan and I watch them uncomfortably stare at these bowls of rice with chopsticks planted vertically in the center. Sometimes I’d like to walk over and pluck them out and explain to the guest that they are performing part of a Japanese funeral ceremony. I refrain in the end- it is not something people want to hear while they are dining in an upscale restaurant, right?

In an effort to make everyone more educated on the topic and appear like cultured human beings, avoid the following:

  1. NEVER place chopsticks upright in the rice. This is part of a funeral ceremony performed in Japan.

Just make yourself a chopstick rest and use it- you’ll minimize the temptation to stab your rice.

2. NEVER pass food chopstick-to-chopstick with another. This is also performed at a funeral ceremony in Japan. Family and friends of the deceased pick up the bones and pass it to one another chopstick-to-chopstick.

3.  NEVER cross your chopsticks. Crossed chopsticks is another reminder of funeral ceremonies and best to avoid. Use your chopstick holder!

4. AVOID pointing your chopstick at another person. This is seen as an act of aggression and is best to avoid this and keep the peace.

There are many, many rules pertaining to proper chopstick use in Japan but if you stick to the rules 1,2, and 3 you will be fine! Below are a few more if you really want to be prepared for that next authentic sushi dinner.

From http://www.japanzine.jp/


Do you observe people when they eat in restaurants? What table manner faux-pas do you see people break from your culture all the time? Comment below, I’d love to know!







  1. Cheers for this information, something I was not aware of (then again, my chopstick etiquette equals my chopstick style – poor). Great to stumble upon a fellow Canadian blogger!.


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