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LAST WORDS: A Rare Invitation to Dinner
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A Rare Invitation to Dinner
By Caitlin Hardy

BT 201712 Last 07      现如今,人们的物质生活极大丰富,当你想和三五朋友小聚时,或者请客户赴宴时,那么餐厅都是我们认为方便快捷的首选。当然了,把客人请到自己家就餐依然是一个传统选项,如果你被主人请到家中吃饭,这不仅仅意味着主人对你的重视,同时也意味着你们的关系更为亲密。

      一般来说,请客的消息会在宴会当日的两三天前发出,如果你抽不开身不得不拒绝,那么你最好想好一个合适的理由,不然可能会被认为你对主人的家庭不感兴趣。中国乃礼仪之邦,对礼数和客套比较讲究,所以到别人家中吃饭时是要特别注意的。在中国的家庭中,通常进门都需要将自己的鞋脱下来,换成主人提供好的室内拖鞋,抵达的时间也不能太晚,最好提前一些到达,以方便主人做好准备。客人进门后,主人会请客人先落座,并奉上好茶。一般来说茶水会贯穿整个宴会的始终,在就餐时你也可以继续饮茶。中国的酒文化也是博大精深,所以宴席间也免不了觥筹交错推杯换盏。

      由于中餐往往需要煎炒烹炸等多道工序,所以在客人与男主人聊天时,女主人通常都在厨房中为客人精心准备宴席食材。吃饭时,主人通常不会太在意自己是否吃饱,而是关注着客人对餐点的感受。主人会不断为客人夹菜,并劝客人多吃一些、再吃一些,有时候碗中剩下一些食物,甚至是表明自己确实饱了的证明。在主人的盛情之下,客人也当作出适当的表示,比如赞赏菜品的口感和美味,并不失时机地表示感谢。

BT 201712 Last 06What could be a more exciting intercultural experience in China than being invited to dine in an authentic Chinese home? One may have lived in China for years, may have visited all the popular tourist spots more times than they care to remember, taken pride on being able to order favourite dishes in passable Mandarin, but a real Chinese adventure can be had by dining in someone’s home. Receiving an invitation to the home of a friend or colleague is at par with finding one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.
 

BT 201712 Last 05In China, inviting people out to dinner in a restaurant is commonplace and it is regarded as an honour to treat others in this way. Inviting people into your home is rare for reasons such as lack of space, with many people living at close quarters with others, and the range of restaurant options from simple, road-side stalls to high-end Michelin-starred establishments means that all budgets can take advantage of this carefree option.
 

Typically, an invitation to a home-cooked dinner can come at rather short notice; just a day or two ahead. If you have other plans and are unable to accept, it would be a good move to explain the reason. Otherwise the host may think you are not interested in their invitation.
 

Chinese culture dictates that you arrive on time. In fact, Chinese guests will often arrive early in order to help the host with the preparations. On arrival, you should leave your shoes at the door and feel free to exchange them for indoor slippers often provided.
 

In a traditional home, guests will usually be offered an aperitif in the form of tea, rather than being asked what they would like to drink. Throughout the dinner you will likely continue to drink tea and perhaps beer in addition.

BT 201712 Last 04Since majority of Chinese dishes are stir-fried and hence cannot be prepared beforehand, as is often the case in the West, you will notice that there is often one person absent from the table at a Chinese dinner party. The host can be found in the steamy kitchen, tossing various ingredients around a wok and is surrounded by a mound of vegetables, carefully prepped for the remaining dishes.

BT 201712 Last 02You can rest assured that an array of dishes will leave the kitchen and arrive at the table and there is enough food to feed an army. If the household is fortunate enough to employ the services of an ayi, it is her who will be in charge of creating the abundant and delicious spread. This enables the guests to enjoy the company of the hostess, and the evening becomes a more social event, rather than just a gastronomic experience.
 

BT 201712 Last 01In Chinese culture, it is the quality, variety and abundance of the food offered to any guest, which is the main priority. The hosts will often not eat much themselves, but rather focus on ensuring that the guest is treated almost regally and does not leave at the end of the dinner feeling remotely hungry. They will continuously add food to the guest’s bowl, especially the highest quality ingredients, such as seafood and fish, and this will continue until the guest cannot consume another mouthful and leaves food in the bowl.
 

The effort a host puts into the food is second to none, but with true Chinese modesty will apologise several times during the meal for the humble and meagre offering. In response, the guest should conjure up all the superlatives he can, in order to praise the variety of dishes and deliciousness of the food and note that this has been a real Chinese moment to remember.
 

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