Chopsticks are a cultural icon for many East Asian cultures: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. As such, it is one of the most widely-used utensils in the world. With that being said, there are lots of cultural taboos involving the use of chopsticks, so read on carefully if you want to avoid accidentally offending other people!
Don’t Stick Chopsticks Into a Bowl of Rice
In China, Korea and Japan, one shared aspect of culture is the taboo of sticking chopsticks into a bowl of rice. This is because it is very similar in form to burning incense for the dead at Chinese funerals, whereas, in Japanese and certain Korean funeral rites, chopsticks placed vertically into a bowl of rice are indications that the rice is reserved for the deceased.
Don’t Stick Chopsticks Into Food
You might be tempted to use your chopsticks to pierce into pieces of food like meatballs or fishcakes, especially if you are using Japanese chopsticks with pointy ends. However, doing so is considered quite rude in China, Korea and Japan.
Don’t Mess Around Food With Chopsticks
You should not use chopsticks to rummage through a dish as if you are digging for treasure; this not only destroys the harmony of the dish, it also shows you to be a selfish person.
Japanese-Only: Don’t Pass Food From Chopstick to Chopstick
In Chinese and Korean culture, it is acceptable for someone to pass a piece of food to you via chopsticks which you could then receive using your own chopsticks, but in Japan, this is very similar to the funerary rite of passing cremated bones into urns, thus it is a big taboo for Japanese.
Don’t Worry About Using Chopsticks Incorrectly
If you’re worried about not being able to use chopsticks correctly, you don’t have to worry too much about it, as most people don’t actually use them correctly themselves either. It used to be an important cultural thing since the ability of a child to use a pair of chopsticks correctly reflects on the education they receive from their parents, but most people nowadays don’t really care if you or even they themselves cross their chopsticks in their hands, so long as it serves its purpose in bringing you food, and so long as you avoid all the major taboos as mentioned above.