Bring a Sweater
Chinese dim sum restaurants usually have the aircon churning out cold air so it’s a good idea to bring something to keep you warm. You don’t want to be shivering while you wait for you food.
Just a Bit of Chores
When you get to your table, the first thing to do is wash the utensils, plates, cups and bowls. This is because these items may not be the cleanest after the method of washing by the restaurant and Chinese people want to sure that what they’re using to eat is clean. Using a washing bowl provided, you pour tea or hot water in and wash. You can be very polite by washing everybody’s dishes and utensils.
All the Tea
Tea is something that Chinese people love to drink. Dim sum is no different. It is important that you pour tea for those around you, especially if you are younger than the others at the table. Pouring tea for your elders is seen as respectful and well mannered. If someone’s tea cup is empty or running low, be sure to pour them more tea.
Order Enough (each dish has 3-4 servings)
Ordering is now done on sheets of paper with the dishes and boxes for you to write the amount of each dish you want. Each dish usually has 3-4 servings so order accordingly. The dishes are categorized as small, medium, large, and special. The actual size of the dishes don’t necessarily correspond to the categories but price certainly does.
Traditionally, there would be carts laden with dishes that would come around with the pusher calling out the dishes he or she had. You would then call out what you wanted and it was brought to you from the cart. There are still a few of these around but they are not very common.
Nowadays there is usually English on the menu so don’t worry. The most popular items to get are: shrimp dumplings, pork and shrimp dumplings, BBQ pork bun, and rice rolls. However, don’t limit yourself and be sure to try new dishes. Even if there is no English, stay tuned with MeeOpp for details on reading the menu!
Help Others First
Do not immediately get food for yourself. Make sure those around you, and your elders have food before eating. Get food for them, and if they are Chinese they may protest and say that they’ll help themselves. Ignore this and get them food. Chinese people always tell you to eat first and that they’ll help themselves.
Be aware of the chopsticks you are using as well. There are designated chopsticks for getting food and designated chopsticks for eating, differentiated by their color.
Fighting for the Bill
As people finish up eating, the battle for the bill begins. It is for customary for Chinese people that the bill be fought over. It is seen as polite to pick up the bill, but only one person can pay. For Chinese people, it can also be seen as being wealthy as they are able to take care of others.
If you are eating with Chinese people, showing that you’re willing to pay will be seen as polite and put you in a positive light, even if you don’t end up paying. Usually the older ones end up paying but if you are earning money it’s a good idea to put up a fight. Some go to extremes to ensure that they pay, like giving the waiter/waitress their card before they sit down.
It’s About the Community and Bonding
A common theme throughout all this is that their is a sense of community. Most everything is done to help others or involves others. Dishes are shared, tea is poured for others, everyone eats, and you can see everyone at the circular table. Essentially, everyone is taken care of. Hopefully at your next dim sum experience you can use these tips and enjoy the feel of community too!