Originally published in The China Post (but not online). Read more of Rosanne’s witty and hilarious columns for the culturally discombobulated on her website: rosannelin.com
As an American guy of Chinese descent, I’m used to my buddies back home embarrassing me in Chinatown eateries with their bad manners. Actually, I gave up arguing against using chopsticks to perform drum solos on the table a long time ago; but when my American buddies here in Taiwan act pig ignorant in restaurants, it’s different. I freak.
These guys chose to come here, so I think they should at least try to control their urges to clean ears or bang on rice bowls with chopsticks. Still, every time I say: “Hey, don’t play with your chopsticks?” I get the same knee-jerk response: “Chill man.”
So, I just want to take this opportunity to say to all the manner morons out there: “Chopsticks are eating utensils!” Imagine sitting in a steakhouse back in the US about to cut into a juicy rib-eye, when you spot some guy scratching his back with a fork and picking his nose with the end of a steak knife. What would that do to your appetite?
Listen, I’m no Emily Post, but chopsticks are for eating.
— Nauseated in Hualien
I think it would be kind of dangerous to pick your nose with a steak knife; but I get your point. Playing with chopsticks at a meal is rude.
Certainly, any foreign kindergarten teacher in Taiwan; even the ones you find passed out under a table at the Brass Monkey on Thursday nights; can tell you this is a golden rule of table etiquette in Taiwan.
Here are some additional reminders for any of the other culturally challenged out there. Chopsticks should not be placed standing up in a rice bowl, as this resembles the positioning of “joss sticks” at a funeral and is bad luck. For very proper chopstick behavior; use the back of your chopsticks when picking up food from a communal plate or reach for a clean set to serve from this dish. When not sure which is the accepted behavior, watch to see how the local people do it; or better, ask someone.
— Good manners aren’t stuffy, MeiGui
I don’t know what I’ve done, but it’s obvious that I’ve made a big blunder somewhere. Not only has the “Bamboo Curtain” fallen between me and my beloved co-teacher, but now my boss is refusing to speak with me.
It all started with my project for the Lunar New Year. I wanted to give little envelopes of money to my new students here, like I had to my former students in Japan.
I went to a local convenience store and bought a pack of pretty white envelopes with elegant writing on the outside, then showed them to my co-teacher. She immediately suggested that I fill each one with forty dollars in coins.
Now everyone is giving me dirty looks, and my “little flower” refuses to even speak with me. Was forty dollars too cheap?
— Ex-Marine in HsinChu
I don’t think your “little flower” shares your affection.
I realize in Japan it’s common practice to give children white envelopes of money for the New Year; but you gave your students – whom I’m guessing are children – funeral envelopes with a number that is sounds a lot like the word for word “dead” in Chinese.
— Holidays are dangerous, MeiGui
— By Rosanne Lin: firstname.lastname@example.org