Learning to use chopsticks properly can be a challenge, but how you hold them and eat with them shouldn’t be your only concerns. Even if you are proficient at handling the chopsticks, there are other things you need to know. Follow these etiquette guidelines when eating with chopsticks and you can’t go wrong.
Avoid Crossing Chopsticks
It may be tempting to cross your chopsticks over your bowl or plate when you set them down, but this is a big no-no in chopstick etiquette. Use your chopstick holder or make one from the wrapper of disposable chopsticks and place the chopsticks side-by-side on the left side of your dish. Crossed chopsticks are reminders of funeral ceremonies and are considered offensive by most Asian people.
Don’t Stand Chopsticks Up in Your Rice
While Americans sometimes place a fork in a bowl of rice or other foods, when it comes to chopsticks, this is another no-no. Bowls of rice with vertical chopsticks represent another funeral tradition where the rice is offered to the dead. Avoid this offensive gesture and always lay your chopsticks down on the table.
Don’t Eat from Communal Dishes
This rule is similar to the American "no double-dipping" rule. Once you have eaten from the chopsticks they should never touch communal bowls. Use the serving utensils provided, ask for another set of chopsticks for serving individual portions from the communal bowl or share the food before anyone has used their chopsticks.
Lift, Don’t Scoop
If you find using chopsticks challenging you may be tempted to scoop your food from the bowl to your mouth, but this is considered bad manners. Use the chopsticks to lift the portion of food and bring to your mouth. Rice bowls can be held close the mouth to catch drippings, but other dishes should remain on the table.
It may be tempting to stir your soup with your chopsticks, but this too is bad form. Stirring the soup looks like you are trying to wash the chopsticks.
Don’t Pass Food with Chopsticks
Passing food from one person to another via chopsticks may seem innocent enough, but in Japanese culture, this resembles the funeral ritual of transferring the cremated bones of the deceased to the urn. If you wish to share your sushi with someone else in your party, ask them to pass you their plate. Transfer the food from your plate to theirs with the chopsticks.
Don’t Gesture with Chopsticks
Be aware of your hands when you are talking and avoid using chopsticks to point to make other gestures during conversation. If you can’t talk without your hands, put your chopsticks down until the conversation is finished. Gesturing with chopsticks in considered bad manners.