Ordering food in China

Restaurant off Nanjing Road in Shanghai

Two things about ordering food in restaurants in China take getting used to.

The first is that you order everything together. There is no real distinction between appetizer and the main dishes. You choose all that you think you will find edible, order it, and it will arrive as it gets ready: do not expect appetizers to arrive first. We reconciled it with our Indian experience by thinking of a Gujarati thali, where again, everything arrives in any order whatever, and you can go back and forth. Exactly like that, in Chinese restaurants, the rice is more or less the end of the meal.

The second is when to pay. In some restaurants you get a bill at the end of the meal. In some, especially the smaller establishments, you order and pay and then find a table for yourself; only then should you even expect the food to arrive. There is also the third method: the food and the bill arrive together, and you pay before you begin to tuck in to the meal. We do see all three methods in India, the problem is that our expectation of which restaurant will use which method is wildly off.

That’s cultural differences for you.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


      1. Yes, it was authentic! The kids and I spent the morning at the Children’s Museum. The entire upper level is dedicated to teaching about different cultures around the world. We got to play that we were making Chinese food. I wanted to take it a little bit further so we found an authentic place to eat in Waikiki. It was incredible! The service was great. The food was excellent. My kids are already asking when we can go back!!!


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