As any parent knows, taking kids to a restaurant can be challenging. Being in a new environment and possibly feeling overstimulated are just two factors that can contribute to unpredictable behavior. Dining with children in a restaurant with cuisine and customs from another culture can be especially daunting. The tips below can help.
Brush Up on Chinese Etiquette Rules
Americans who routinely eat Chinese food often eat at restaurants that offer Westernized versions of it. Because of this, they may be unaware of breeching certain standards of etiquette when they visit an authentic Chinese restaurant either here or in China. It is especially important for parents to understand these traditions so they can teach their children to be respectful of other cultures.
Since many Chinese restaurants close earlier than Americans are used to, sitting down to dinner at an earlier time is a good idea. For parents bringing young children to a restaurant, this is a good habit to get into anyways. Some other etiquette tips to keep in mind include:
- One person should place the order for the entire party. This same person normally pays the tab, but that is up to the individual diners to decide.
- American tourists in China should take the time to familiarize themselves with regional cuisine differences. Menus in true Chinese restaurants are often set up to display the area’s specialty first.
- Chinese food is served family style except for rice. If children are unfamiliar with this, parents should take the opportunity to demonstrate how to pass food to other diners and wait their turn for a helping.
These are only a handful of situations when manners might become an issue. Travelers would be wise to study the region they are visiting for more in-depth information.
Make the Most of the Time Spent Waiting for Food
After one person places the group order, the children in the party are likely to get restless waiting for food to arrive. This is a good time for parents to explain what chopsticks are and how to use them. Looking around the restaurant and playing a game of make-believe with the Chinese decorations is a good way to pass the time as long as it’s done respectfully. Introducing kids to the concept of fortune cookies and zodiac signs are additional ways to keep them occupied until it is time to eat. The younger the child, the more unrealistic the expectation for him or her to sit quietly while adults talk.
Best Practices for Ordering Chinese Food for Kids
With children who have never eaten Chinese food before, it’s best for parents to ease them into the flavor and texture. Eggs rolls, wonton soup, egg drop soup, and steamed dumplings tend to make good appetizers for kids because of the bright colors and the fun of dipping the dumplings in sauce. Any type of noodles is a good choice for the main dish, especially for young people who like spaghetti. Sauces and cut-up vegetables go over well as part of the main dish also. Fortune cookies make excellent desert since they are low in calories and sugar.
If parents respect their child’s schedule and understand his or her normal food preferences, lunch or dinner out at a Chinese restaurant should go well.