I had dinner with my business partners and friends Rose and Yvonne at Chamate in Jian Wai SOHO in Beijing’s CBD (Central Business District) last night. The girls moved to Beijing from the States to begin their own design office, www.ouimake.com, focusing on architectural and graphics projects. They designed our company logo as well as contribute to many of the written and organizational aspects of our website.
The square logo is composed of a U and a C, which intersect with each other. The balance found between the curved lines and the square creates a sharp contrast relating to that of the Ying and Yang. This symbol is a very important part of Chinese culture. I also appreciate the simplicity of this symbol.
We ordered Chinese food and a small bottle of red wine to cerebrate the launch of Rose and Yvonne’s website. Our dinner together became a combination of Western and Chinese customs, which we were happy to share with one another. There are few different aspects of dining etiquette between Chinese and Western cultures that revealed themselves during our dinner.
First, when Chinese people have wine with a meal, we normally finish our wine first before having any rice, but Westerns don’t consider it necessary to have them separately. Chinese people believe that having rice with wine will create a chemical reaction and make the stomach feel uncomfortable. In China, most wines are made from rice, which is why people believe this may happen. But actually I don’t really agree with this common belief.
I have been guiding Westerners, mostly American’s, for more than 5 years, and I noticed that most Americans don’t typically drink hot drinks except tea. People tell me that almost all of the restaurants in the US serve cold water instead of hot, and even babies often drink cold milk. Recently someone told me that people drink cold beverages as opposed to hot ones because people have different dietary habits. In China, steamed rice is the most common food served with most meals, while most Westerns eat meats, such as beef or chicken. Also, traditional Chinese medicine considers rice to be a cold food when it served with meats, which are considered to be warming foods. Chinese people like to drink lots of hot water in order to warm up their stomach, while Westerns drink cold water in order to cool down it. I guess this must be the reason!
Second, people in China like to see the plates left on the table after finishing a meal, and don’t like to see plates being taken away. In the West, when a course is finished, the waiter takes the plates from that course away. In China, the hosts normally like to prepare servings that allow there to be more than enough food so that there will always be food left on the table. The more empty plates that remain on the table is a symbol that all of guests had a great time and are very full because there is still something left on the table. In the West though, people think that if you like the meal, you should finish it completely so as not to appear ungrateful or as though you didn’t enjoy it. Therefore, people always eat up.
Because China was such a large, rich, great country, I means in Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, etc, the GDP of China was always the No. 1 and leading the whole world in many aspects, like economy, culture, science, etc; From Emperors to people always think we should give people more than they need in order to show that we are generous and food is plentiful. People have been gradually influenced by this culture for thousands of years and giving guests more than they need has become a tradition in Chinese dining etiquette.
We had a great dinner there because it is very relaxed and although it is not expensive. Good dinner is not always depended how expensive it is but how it makes you enjoy it. The cultural differences are always so interesting and beautiful and make traveling to see and experience them so exciting.
I believe that this is the meaning of travel, to help people to enjoy the differences between cultures, traditions, and people.