- Arrive at the table early, check out the dishes and sit near the ones you can stomach. If necessary, subtly jam something under the rotating central section to ensure your choices don’t spin away.
- When ordering food, always ask for “panda meat”. Some folk laugh, some look genuinely worried, some apologise for it not being on the menu. Great fun!
- Sit with your back towards any big posters showing western meals [see photo above]. This helps you concentrate on the Chinese food and stops inappropriate salivating.
- Pretend you understand nothing of the Chinese conversation, and then listen really carefully when you hear your name mentioned – you can learn a lot.
- Show how much you enjoy certain dishes – chances are they will be ordered again on your next visit.
- If you don’t drink but have totally failed to avoid the “thimbleful of spirits” toast, suddenly tip it back shouting “GanBei!” (“Cheers!”) but aim just past your ear rather than into your mouth. The other drinkers tend not to notice. Do check for passing waitresses first. If someone asks you whether you can use chopsticks (and after five years in China, they still do!?), simply point to your stomach and (in Chinese) say, “What do you think?”. This only works if you are as fat as me.
- Reach across the table to a distant plate of food. Wait for some kind person to spin the table round bringing the dish closer to you. Then immediately reach across the table for something completely different. Wait for the spin. Reach across. Spin. Continue until someone realises you are just winding them up.
- Always thank the cook and compliment the waitresses. It’s very un-Chinese, and it’s worth it just to see the shocked look on their face!
Another in my occasional series of "Flashbacks" looking back at blog entries made before this Weebly version started.
Banquets sound great, right? Free, quality food, good company, no washing up, etc. Well maybe, but this term I’ve been averaging a banquet a day (including weekends) as a result of all the school visits I make, and they can sometimes be a real pain. The conversations can be all in Chinese for long periods, the food is often too spicy/bitter/sour or just downright odd (we had “tree leaves and crushed bones” yesterday!). There’s usually the toasting session at the end (being tee-total takes some effort in China) and there’s always a handful of men who see nothing wrong in puffing on their fags whilst others are still eating. However, I’ve become quite adept at pitching in to conversations, spotting the “dangerous” foods and avoiding alcohol without giving offence.
Here are my top tips for surviving Chinese banquets:
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