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Are You Using Chopsticks All Wrong?

When you think of iconic photos — those that change the way people think or see the world — or challenge the status quo, you tend to think of photos with celebrities, world leaders, or even ordinary people doing ordinary things. So to hear a friend say, “have you see that mind blowing photo of…chopsticks?” may have you wondering if your friend has taken one too many trips to the noodle shop. But seriously, have you seen the recent, trending chopstick photo?


Who knew? The internet is buzzing with people who’ve been using disposable chopsticks all wrong. (Or, maybe just not harnessing their full potential.) Not all disposable chopsticks will break this easily, look out for the new design by Muji!

While this is eye-opening news to me, it’s got me thinking, what other chopstick faux pas might I be making?  

As with any culture, the rules and regulations surrounding table manners and food etiquette can be tricky. What’s seen as rude in one place is perfectly acceptable in another. And just because you think you know how to use chopsticks in Japan, doesn’t mean the same rules hold true for China!

To help sort out the confusion, here are some quick tips on the proper way to use chopsticks.

  • Just as you would not play with your knife and fork, neither should you play with your chopsticks. They are not drumsticks nor tools to play with your food.

  • Do not use them to “dig” for your food. This is known as “digging your grave” (enough said).

  • Do not use them to stab your food. They are not spears. (You may use them to tear large vegetables apart if absolutely necessary.)

  • Never leave your chopsticks standing vertically in your bowl. This can be reminiscent of incense sticks some people use as offerings for deceased loved ones.

  • In China, you may use hold your rice bowl up to your mouth and use your chopsticks to guide the rice in (as opposed to picking up the small grains with the sticks).

  • And the one I’ve always wondered about, what is the best way to take food from a communal plate?

    • Ideally there should be serving chopsticks for this purpose. If not, it is acceptable to use your chopsticks backwards to serve from a communal plate.


By Kathleen Siddell, February 2016

Photo: 123rf.com

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