Eating out with my Chinese family or mostly with my in-laws is always a very special occasion. Not because it happens so rarely but due to their interesting behavior which includes that mother-in-law is always right and father-in-law is very careful.
There is something like a pattern to the way everything works out. It usually starts when deciding where and what to eat. Of course I get always asked what I would like to eat but somehow plans change and I get for example not my visit to my favorite BBQ place a second time during our stay! (So evil people, oh how I suffer). This is due to one simple reason, we get invited out of nowhere by other people for the evening or next day so my beloved BBQ is on hold until there is a time slot available.
After all this is settled we need to arrive in time which never works out. Somehow we are always late, for example we should be there at 1pm but we just start leaving by 1pm. But here again it has one very simple reason. Mother-in-law is the one who gets to know what time we should be there but tells us that we should leave by 1pm. So when we arrive she says that she thought it was agreed to leave by 1pm and not to arrive by that time! Sounds weird and it certainly is without being able to provide any further information on why this happens every time (my wife is also confused).
The next hurdle begins when sitting down at our table. Here it starts immediately with father-in-law taking all our tableware and clean it with the wipes he took along. These wipes are dry so all what happens is that in case there was any dirt or similar on them he just spreads it evenly out. Next it’s the turn for mother-in-law by putting the chopsticks into the tea to kill the bacteria. That the tea is already on a temperature to drink and thus not that suitable to fight of germs does not matter. Even better, she fills up one cup of tea and “cleans” each other cup by pouring this very tea from cup to cup resulting once again in a very nice spreading of dirt if it ever was somewhere.
As I wrote in another article so long time ago the most important step is actually before we sit down. In here I have to observe where exactly mother-in-law or any other aunty or grandma is sitting and from there I have to choose the seat furthest away from them. The importance of this step can be explained in a very simple way: survival! Whenever I sit too close to them my plate just keeps on piling more food and whatever I try, I cannot eat up everything. As I was raised in Europe you usually learn to eat everything on you plate which can be in China very quickly be a death sentence (for your waist).
In case there are some leftovers my MIL has always few plastic bags with her or just asks the staff for some food boxes. This might strike you as pretty normal but this food is not for us, nono, it is for the wild cats she feeds in the yard. No matter what food it is or how spicy, she brings it to the cats. These animals are fed so well that they already ignore the occasional mouse sprinting by them but what am I saying, there are of course no mice according to mother-in-law!
After all of this is over the paying starts. When it is just us with the in-laws it does not really matter but as soon as other people are there the battle starts who has to pay. As this is very common in China I won’t go any further detail besides that I have already seen mother-in-law racing one of her friends through a restaurant to see who will be first able to pay…
And now some pictures just to make you a bit hungry
What are you experiences when going out to eat?
24 thoughts on “Eating out with my Chinese Family”
I always feel kind of nervous before I’m going to eat with my In-laws or even worse their friends as well! Haha.. I think my boyfriend feel the same about eating with he’s parent’s friends, I just always make sure I sit next to him and maybe next to my father-in-law as he is pretty chill, compared to my mother-in-law who controls the whole restaurant whenever we are there .. Gosh. Sometimes it’s so embarrassing haha.. Like one time she actually asked one of the waiters to bring extra hot water so she could clean the plates and chopsticks and cups, and then when she had done that she needed better napkins to dry the plates … Because the ones at the table weren’t good enough! Haha. Oh well, I guess it’s just their way of being polite and making sure everything is “at it’s best standards” haha. I wonder what it will be like when they are coming to Scotland in October.. I will also go there at time for my boyfriend’s graduation.. I think I will just cook food for them at home! Hahaha.
Oh yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes it can be pretty embarrsing with my mother-in-law as well 🙂
Is that peanut sauce in that noodle dish? And are those peanuts with the lotus roots? It all looks delicious!
In Taiwan, it’s not uncommon to see people simply bring their own set of chopsticks with them, and spoons also sometimes. Though I don’t think they’d do that when going to reputable restaurants.
I am not sure anymore if it was peanut sauce in that noodle dish however I do know that those were peanuts with the lotus roots and those were very delicous!
I would understand if my parents-in-law would do it in an street restaurant or “normal” restaurant but they do it in higherclass range restaurants as well 🙂
Luckily, whenever I go out to eat with the in-laws, I usually order the dishes that I love (of course they will be shared with everyone but at least I get my favorites) and they order what they want as well. Luckily, no one ever puts anything on my plate (well, unless I asked my husband to). They respect what I eat plus how much I want to.
BTW, all the food looks delicious. I was going to mention about how many Taiwanese bringing their own chopsticks with them but TW already mentioned it (great minds think alike).
I have also always one dish which I like however I end up with all kinds of things on my plate such as fish heads, pig brain and and and 😀
This is one hilarious post and everything you mentioned, well, my Malaysian family does it as well. My mum and dad never trust that cutlery on the tables at restaurants in Malaysia/Singapore are actually clean…most of the time they reckon the plates and chopsticks are rinsed in one big bucket of oily water and dried off. Sometimes my mum will even request for a bowl of boiling hot water to wash the utensils before we begin eating.
At family reunion dinners, my relatives never fail to ask me if they can scoop food onto my plate of me. I usually put my hands over my plate and it works to stop them 😀 As for saving scrap foods for the pets, my relatives are especially fond of bringing back a roasted pig or chicken’s head for the dogs, to which the animals always lap up within an hour. Our Chinese families are very much alike.
It really appears that Chinese families have many common things, at least what we can see when it comes to behaviour when eating out 🙂
Sometimes it does not even help when I take my plate away as there might be a sneaky person behind just putting something on it..
Speaking of sneaking people: sometimes when my relatives and my family are halfway through a Chinese banquet, my mum will excuse herself from the table to go to the toilet…when in fact she sneaks over to the register to pay the bill 😀
I know that trick already, I think it was also my mother in law doing or godmother, I dont remember. I believe they already are planning on how to trick the others while eating 🙂
Your MIL looks so young!! She doesn’t look like a Chinese MIL at all…
I will tell her, this will make her definetely happy 🙂
I think she is 52 now. She used to be a model and is retired now already for 10-14years which means she only goes dancing and well, shopping 🙂
Wow!! A model!! Now I want to see a picture of your wife!! 😀
Ah well, what did MIL say again about her daughter “Not model material” or something like that 😛
I learned a few things from watching my father-in-law. He ate out a lot because of his work. And yet he was a slim man because he knew how to avoid eating or drinking too much. He dished other people up before they had a chance to put too much on his plate. Then he smoothly got the person sitting next to him talking and distracted as he turned the lazy-Susan. I know this sounds too simple, but he knew how to make it work.
I certainly need to learn this kind of skill. I guess most problematic is that I cant really have small talk during dinner so all whats left is eating my plate empty 🙂
I haven’t really eaten out much at all with my in-laws, since they live in the countryside and rarely come out. But my in-laws are pretty funny even dining at home. Like the way my FIL never comes down to meals on time. Sometimes you have to call him over and over again before he makes an appearance at the table. And then, sometimes he devours his food before anyone else even sits down to eat! It’s one of our family’s great enigmas.
Probably each family has some specialties. When I start to think of my own parents I could list tons of odd things in an instant!
Got to laugh reading this! All too similar… Especially with the bill paying – happens every time 🙂
My mum must think I starve David because every opportunity she gets, she just wants to feed him!
Oh I know what you mean! My mother-in-law and all her friends always say that I dont get enough food as I look thinner and thinner each time I visit (I am happy to be a bit smaller each time but that seems a no-go in China:) )
Thank you btw 🙂
I reckon my husband probably should have a chit-chat with you! My mother is from Malaysia, and our eating out habits can be quite entertaining too. Thanks for your amusing article really enjoyed it.
I am always glad when people like my blog posts. After reading many articles regarding eating habits in various Asian countries it seems that it is rather common for outsiders to few them as entertaining:)
For me it is already a beloved chaos everytime I go eating in China
Haha, I love this. I can totally relate to this. My Taiwanese family is very similar indeed. They always want to treat me with traditional Chinese food of the best sort, and I always hope, they will not order the sea cucumber or the sharks fin soup again…
I really don’t like the sea cucumber, nearly every single time there I have to eat it as well!