A Chinese Banquet

Joe came to China to finalize a contract he had been negotiating with a Chinese company. After signing the contract, he was invited to a banquet to celebrate the event. It was a very formal meal, with servers dividing food into portions, which were then placed in front of every guest.
Joe loved Chinese food. He savoured the soup that came as the first course. He enjoyed the roast baby pork skin that came next. He asked for one more portion for both the third and fourth courses, thinking that would be all they would have. He was surprised when the fifth course came, and found himself becoming full after taking it. However, there was a sixth course, the seventh course, the eighth course, the ninth course, and even a tenth course. They all looked delicious but Joe was too full from the first four courses to have them. He blamed himself for stuffing himself so early on during the meal.
His Chinese partner urged him to have more.
“No, thank you. I’d love to have more, but I’m very full.
I didn’t know there would be so many courses!”
Chinese Perspective
Chinese place a lot of emphasis on eating. A formal dinner or a banquet will usually have many courses, each brought to the table only after the previous course has been completed. Depending on the part of the country, there are different ways of ordering the courses. For example, soup is usually the first course in Cantonese food, with fish served at the end of the main courses. This tradition is based on the fact that the pronunciation of the word, “fish”, in Chinese is the same as that of the word “surplus”, therefore symbolizing that people have had more than enough to eat.
Regardless of the order in which food comes, formal dinners over China have one thing in common: they all have eight or ten courses, plus appetizers.
North American Perspective
Dining habits are a major difference between Chinese and North Americans. Many North Americans are more interested in the quantity of food rather than its quality. While they like to eat, many are quite happy with hamburgers, pizza, and other heavy, fatty foods. North American meals usually feature large amounts of a small number of dishes, typically served all at the same time.
It is not uncommon for North Americans to be unwilling to try new foods. “1 don’t want to eat anything 1 haven’t eaten before” is a common attitude. Joe’s enthusiasm and appreciation Americans. It is unfortunate he didn’t also understand some of the other Chinese dining etiquette and traditions.

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