Title Translation: I love chopsticks!
I am a huge foodie, so I really like going out and trying new foods when I get the chance. Since being in Hong Kong for 3 months, I have been to all different types of restaurants from Korean to Taiwanese. I have had traditional Cantonese food and a lot of sushi. However, every time my friends and I go out to dinner, whether it is a fancy restaurant or a Dai Pai Dong, spoons and forks are not provided on the table and are less likely to be given at request. This is completely different than in America because when you go to the restaurants or households, you are always given a fork, knife, and spoon. Back home, I never really used chopsticks unless it was the only utensil given in a restaurant, such as the ramen bar in Philly Chinatown I went to with my friend before I left for Hong Kong. He told me that I have to get as much practice in as possible and that going to Chinatown I could do just that.
When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I knew that I was going to have a difficult time eating at first because I didn’t grow up using chopsticks like my friends and lacked the skills. But as the saying goes “practice makes perfect!” and it absolutely did. Ever time I went out to dinner, I set a new goal for myself to try to get better at holding chopsticks and picking up food with them. I looked at the ways all of my friends held their chopsticks, but they all held it differently because their parents taught them differently. When we were eating in the Canteen with Tiffany’s exchange buddy, he told me that I was actually holding the chopsticks correctly and that a lot of people in Hong Kong tend to not hold it the right way because it requires more work. Knowing that made me happy to know that I was a little closer to perfecting my chopstick skills. As time went on I went from not being able to pick up noodles in soup to being able to pick up anything that was slippery off the plates that we were sharing.
While practicing my skills, I learn a lot about the different superstitions around the chopsticks. A common part of using chopsticks that is influenced here in Hong Kong is that you should never stick your chopsticks into your rice because it means death, the direct imagery is used at the funeral alter. I learned this the hard way as we were out to dinner and my hands got tired of holding the chopsticks and trying to pick up the rice, so I unknowingly stuck my chopsticks right into my bowl of rice. Everyone freaked out and Tiffany reached over very quickly and took them out of the rice. They then explained what it meant and after that I knew better. I learned that when you are not using your chopsticks to eat, you either place them in front of you or on the chopstick rest. You can never use them to point at someone or something or lay them across from each other because that signifies bad luck.
I didn’t realize that all of these different superstitions existed about chopsticks and I am happy that I learned them during my first two weeks in Hong Kong. The Chinese word for chopsticks is kuài zi (筷子), where the first character means bamboo, which is what they are commonly made of and second character means utensils. I now consider my self a pro at using chopsticks because I don’t need to use a fork because my hands get tired and my friends don’t have to serve me food because I either drop it on the table due to a lack of grip or can’t pick it up. I have come a long way from not being able to use it correctly to being able to use all the different types of chopsticks; Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. They all come in different lengths and are all made uniquely to be used with the different types of foods that the people of that country eat. I bought myself two pairs to use when I get back to America because I honestly like using chopsticks over a fork. Progress has been made on my end and I know that I probably still have some more facts to learn about usage of chopsticks.