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What is the chopstick etiquette?

What is the chopstick etiquette?

If you have prepared a delicious Asian meal, the chopsticks should of course not be missing as a finishing touch when eating. But what exactly is chopstick etiquette?

Chopsticks are the cutlery for Asian meals

You imagine yourself even more in the Eastern atmosphere at a beautifully set table, which fits the meal perfectly. We are now used to disposable chopsticks included with the takeaway meals from the Japanese or Korean. But especially if you often put a meal on the table from Asia or Japan, then it is easy and also more environmentally friendly to have your own set of chopsticks. So it's time to take a closer look at the different materials they are made of and, above all.... what you should pay attention to when you sit at a table with people who know everything about this type of cutlery. Chopsticks have been used by the Chinese for thousands of years. Their influence on the other Asian countries is also clear, because almost every culture from Asia uses it as cutlery during meals.

Make an environmentally conscious choice

When buying your chopstick, look not only at the appearance, but also at the material it is made of. Of course it can happen that you choose disposable chopsticks for guests. But maybe you can reserve a few sets of lacquered wood especially for guests. That is always better for the environment than, for example, plastic. Chopsticks are made from different materials. Such as bamboo or traditional types of wood, for example. Yet you also see in many Asian countries that less and less often is given with sticks made of natural materials. The reason for this is that plastic or synthetic sticks are easier to clean. That may therefore be preferable in restaurants. But for home use, you can take the time to keep the sticks clean. This is no problem at all with sticks made of lacquered wood. Moreover, a plastic chopstick is a lot less cozy.

In general, however, the tradition of the country still determines the type of chopsticks used.

China - 筷子 (Kuàizi)

The chopsticks from China are often 25 centimeters long and somewhat thicker than the chopsticks from other countries. The points are usually round and blunt, with a square profile. In China you will find most types of material that the chopsticks are made of. The Chinese themselves will probably prefer lacquered bamboo.

Japan - 箸 (hashi)

The Japanese chopsticks are usually around 22 centimeters. They have a tapered point. This is mainly to make it easier to eat Sashimi, for example.

The core of the chopsticks is usually bamboo or wood, with a layer of lacquer over it. Shorter chopsticks are also available for children and women.

Korea - 젓가락(jeosgalag)

Korean chopsticks differ in composition and material. Koreans have a spoon that can be used for eating rice or soup.

The sticks themselves are quite pointed. The material is always silver, brass or metal.

Vietnam - đũa

Vietnamese chopsticks are very similar to the Chinese chopsticks. They are mainly long with a blunt tip. There are larger, flat chopsticks used for serving.

How do you eat with chopsticks

Holding chopsticks incorrectly is seen as bad parenting. But hopefully you won't be blamed if it doesn't quite work out. To get you started in the art of holding, you can follow the steps below:

Step 1: Take the first stick in your hand that you write with. Clamp the back part of the stick firmly between the hollow of your thumb and index finger. Place the tip of your ring finger about halfway up the stick and hold it so that it cannot move;

Step 2: Grab the second stick between your thumb and index finger. Now you need to balance it with your middle finger. Your thumb is now against the stick and your index finger rests on the stick, as it were;

Step 3: Now move the top stick using your index finger and middle finger. You have to make sure that the bottom stick does not move.

If you don't manage to get it done the first few times, don't be discouraged. It just takes some practice. It is important that you serve the meals in pre-cut pieces, which are the right size to put in your mouth at once.

What are the dos and don'ts according to etiquette and traditions?

Although chopsticks are used in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, there are some differences in table manners when it comes to chopsticks. Each country has developed its own customs. There are a few similarities, but also a few differences. We've listed it for you:

In general

  • Don't use the chopsticks as drumsticks if you get bored waiting. So don't play with your food either. That is considered indecent. They are for eating only;
  • Do not 'dig' for food with your chopsticks. This symbolizes the digging of a grave. You pick up what's on top first;
  • Do not touch the food in the serving dishes that are for everyone with your chopsticks;
  • Don't pierce your food with your chopsticks, just pick up the food. In principle, the food has such a size that it is easy to eat. Only in some cases can you use the chopsticks to make vegetables smaller, for example;
  • Never put your chopsticks upright in your bowl. This is very similar to incense sticks in a holder and symbolizes an offering to deceased relatives;

Keeping these general rules in mind, you should also know how etiquette differs from country to country.


  • In China, you may bring the bowl of food to your mouth and slide it from the chopsticks into your mouth;
  • You do not pick up chopsticks until the eldest at the table has picked up his or her chopsticks;
  • Before serving the food, use chopsticks to scoop up. These are larger than the sticks that come with your plate;
  • When you're done eating, place the chopsticks on top of your bowl. If you need a break between meals, place the chopsticks next to your bowl or on a special chopstick holder.


  • In Japan, never pass food to your table companion with your own chopsticks. It is better to indicate your plate, so that the person can take the food off it;
  • If you want to take a break between meals, always put the chopsticks on a holder. If it is not there, you can use the piece of paper that the chopsticks came in as a support;
  • Scooping up food with the back of your chopsticks is accepted by some Japanese, but it is not common practice everywhere;
  • Never cross your chopstick. This symbolizes death;
  • Do not rub the chopsticks between your hands. According to the Japanese, you indicate that you think the material is cheap;
  • If you get chopsticks in a bag, it is the intention that you put the chopsticks back in the paper after the meal.


  • It is not customary to hold the chopsticks and the spoon at the same time;
  • You can simply place the chopsticks on the table, with the chopsticks to the right of the spoon. Never place them upright in the bowl;
  • The spoon is only intended for eating rice and soup (liquid dishes);
  • According to tradition, the eldest at the table is the first person to start eating. Then follows the person who is next eldest. So the youngest at the table picks up his chopsticks last;
  • You are expected to grab food where it is easiest to reach. So you can't reach across the table with your arm outstretched for a dish that's actually too far away from you;
  • You cannot raise your bowl to your mouth while eating as in China and Japan. That is also the reason that you can use a spoon for some dishes.


  • Also in Vietnam it is customary to bring the bowl of rice to your mouth and to push the rice into your mouth with the chopsticks. The same applies if the rice is on a plate;
  • The food must always be scooped from the bowl onto your plate or bowl before you can start eating;
  • If the chopsticks are in a V-shape, the Vietnamese assume that this will bring bad luck to you.

Can't remember all these things? No problem! Just watch what your experienced table mates are doing and try to stick to it.