The Differences Between Chinese and Western Food
Cultural differences between China and western countries create the differences of food cultures, which come from the different cultural values, ways of thinking and philosophy. By comparing the different cultural values between China and western countries, the paper mainly makes a research on the differences of Western and Chinese food cultures from the aspects of food conception, structure and table manners. It also states the food cultures opposites in unity between these two kinds of countries and inevitability of their blending together.
Understanding their differences and rectifying the attitudes towards the individual culture will enhance our communicative awareness and competence and avoid the contradictions and conflicts brought forth by different food cultures and values, and thus promoting culture exchange and development. Key words:cross – cultural communication; cultural value; food cultures; opposites in unity Acknowledgements First of all, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Hu Tian-en, for his instructive advice and useful suggestions on my thesis.
I am deeply grateful of his help in the completion of this thesis. High tribute shall be paid to all the course teachers in the School of Foreign Languages in Zhengzhou University, whose profound knowledge of English triggers my love for this beautiful language and whose earnest attitude tells me how to learn English. Special thanks should go to my friends who have put considerable time and effort into their comments on the draft. Finally, I am indebted to my parents for their continuous support and encouragement.
The Differences Between Chinese and Western Food Cultures Outline I. Introduction II. Main Differences Between Chinese and Western Food Cultures A. Conceptual Differences B. Different Manners C. Different Characteristics 1. Different Dinner Service 2. Different Cookbooks and Reasons III. The Unity of Food cultures as Two Opposites IV. Conclusion The Differences Between Chinese and Western Food Cultures I. Introduction Culture has a long history, and it still is being studied nowadays. Culture is something that originated with the emergence of man.
Sir Edward, the British anthropologist, says that culture is that complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, and moral, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. (Harris, 1987, 2) Different regions, different races and different countries all form their own culture. Different regions and different living environments make them have different backgrounds. Different backgrounds affect different appearance of cultures. Food culture is the basic culture for a nation. Food cultures can show differences and characteristics of different nations or countries.
As an important aspect of culture,Food culture can be defined as the sum of material and spiritual phenomena in the catering activities. With the emphasis on a healthy food, many Chinese and foreign scholars are studying the nutritional food in order to find a more reasonable food. Differences of food cultures in different countries are a phenomenon of cross-cultural communication. Studying these differences can train people’ adaptability in cross-cultural communication. Cross-cultural communication in the situation of globalization makes the different food cultures complementary and integrated.
II. Main Differences Between Chinese and Western Food Cultures A. Conceptual Differences Differences between American and Chinese food culture reflects two different food concepts and values. Chinese people are always upholding “People regard food as their heave, taste is the essence of food” . the eight major cuisines of china reflect the rich connotations of Chinese food culture. From this, we can know that the food is in a very important position in minds of Chinese people. Chinese food culture concerns the meaning of material and has a trend of achieving a mental need.
Chinese food culture’s great sentiment is well established, so it has the very high prestige in the world. The Chinese people think that it is reasonable to eat three meals a day. Eating can relieve thirst and appease hunger, but it has some meanings. For example, when a child comes into the world, the relatives often eat the red-painted eggs. These kinds of eggs contain their wishes and their expectations. Life can be continued and the great expectations can be passed down from generation to generation. When a child is one year old, their family will hold a party to celebrate it and to eat many kinds of food.
When people want to have a marriage, they also want to have a lively banquet to celebrate it. Seen from the surface, these kinds of eating are only satisfy physical needs. In fact, they have ulterior motivations. They want to take advantage of this kind of form to express one kind of psychological connotation. Eating has a very profound and significant position in the society. Through the Chinese and the Western association, our food culture has merged into some new characteristics. Besides the quality, fragrance and flavor, food should concern the nutrition. This is a progressive expression of the Chinese food.
The basic connotation and inspection of the Chinese food culture not only can be helpful to deepen the food cultural theory, but can occupy the world market. It can make the Chinese food culture have the profound and positive sense. It may has four characteristics: refinement, beauty, feeling, courtesy. The four characters have reflected the food activities, and have processed the food quality, the esthetic experience, the emotional activity, the social function and so on. They also contain unique cultural implication. They reflect close relation between the food culture and the outstanding traditional culture.
Chinese food culture attacks great importance to the food’s fine beauty and making devices. First, “refinement” can be used to summarize the intrinsic quality. Confucius said that the good food can be shown from the beautiful appearance, and we consider the minced meat to be good because of its thin. This reflects that the ancients have begun to concern high-quality food. Certainly this is possibly limited to certain aristocrat. But this kind of high-quality food can show one kind of cultural spirit. More and more cultural spirit has permeated the entire food activity.
Choosing the material, the cooking, and the food atmosphere all manifest this characteristic of refinement. Second, “beauty” manifests the food culture’s esthetical characteristic. One important reason why Chinese food can conquer the world lies in its beauty. This kind of beauty refers to the Chinese food can unite the form of action and the perfect content. People can enjoy this kind of happy spirit. The first reason for making people to taste the food is the beauty of the food, anther criterion for judging food is the technique of cooking which can make people have an esthetical feeling.
Third, “feeling” can be used to summarize the function of satisfying psychological need of Chinese food culture. Eating and drinking cannot simply reflect it. In fact, feeling is a medium that can make people exchange the emotion. It is one kind of entirely new social activity. At the same time, while eating a meal, people also can chat with each other. They may do business, exchange information and have the interview. The friends’ meeting and parting and seeing off the departing people are the sentimental disturbance. Fourth, the Chinese food can show the courtesy of Chinese people.
The “refinement”, “beauty”, “feeling” and “courtesy”, can be used to summarize the basic conations of Chinese food culture. In the other words, these four aspects are the organic constitution of Chinese food culture. The refinement and beauty stress on the food image and the quality. The feeling and courtesy can lay emphasis on the view of food. These four characteristics can show the prevailing customs. They are the special characteristics and can make the Chinese food culture be different from Western food culture. Western food cannot have these characteristics like Chinese food.
It concerns more nutrition of food rather than other aspects. The Western people have a very scientific view of food, but they may have less attention to the flavor of food. The Western people just consider the food as a fuel of bodies. They just want to live by eating the food, and eating the food is to live and to keep healthy. B. Different Manners First, there are different arrangements of seats. Chinese and western all concern the arrangement of seats at a formal banquet. In China, etiquette on food has a very long history. It is recorded that in Chou Dynasty, had formed a set of perfect systems.
Especially, since Confucius praised the etiquette, the etiquette has become an important part for every dynasty to show its mightiness, kindness and civilization. As a traditional etiquette, it has its process. Traditionally, Chinese people often use the old fashioned square table or round table for eight people. The host invites people to have the dinner. When some guests come, the host often let them have a rest in the drawing room and drink some tea. The host could let all the guests take their seats in the dining room when all the guests arrive.
The left place is the respectful and is considered the first place. Then the seat near to the first seat is the second. They usually let the guest who is in the high rank take the left seat and then arrange the others’ seats one by one. After the guests all took their seats, the host should toast and let the guests eat more foods. In China, it is a good and polite way for the host to treat the guests in this way. The host should let the guests feel at ease. Sometimes he or she can pick up the food and put in to the guests’ plates.
However, this action cannot be done excessively, and it will let the guests feel embarrassed. The reason is that sometimes it is very hard for the guests to deal with their excessive foods. Until Qing Dynasty, the Western food was brought into China. Some Western countries’ etiquette also went into our country. Some changes have taken place in our traditional etiquettes. Nowadays, etiquette on Chinese food has developed on the basis of keeping traditions and consulting Western countries’ etiquettes. The order of seat is that the right is considered as the first place and respectful position.
The main host takes the seat facing to the door. The first and second important guest should sit on both sides of the host. The second guest also can seat near the first important guest. When the Western people have the dinner, they often use the long and square table. The host and hostess take both sides of the table, and then arrange the guests of honor. Second, table manners differ greatly from country to country. Traditionally, at the Chinese dining table, everyone has his or her own bowl of stable food, while the dishes are placed in the middle of the table to be shared by all.
This age-old custom is one manifestation of the importance of food in Chinese civilization. It is the cooked dishes, rather than flowers, that serve as center pieces on a Chinese table; food is frequently the main topic of dinner time and food is the medium of communicating the host’s good wishes and the joy of the celebration. Enjoyment of the food offered is much more important than conversation. When we have a dinner, we cannot think only of ourselves. If we have a meal with others, we must examine whether our hands are clean. Do not put the left food to the pot, and do not hold the food by yourself.
In the dinner, the drink is the necessary thing. It plays an important role at banquets. It can make people feel excited and make the atmosphere high. At the same time, in order to express the respect for others, they often drink the bear one cup by one cup. The host takes the first piece of the most valued food and put it on their guest of honor’s plate after leading the first drink. This will signify the beginning of the eating and is considered as a friendly gesture. At the banquet, some things need to be considered. Some seeds and bones of the food should be placed on the table or in a reserved dish.
Do not place these in your bowl. If you want to break the dinner for a while, you can vertically put chopstick on the dishes. If you put chopsticks horizontally on the dishes or place your chopsticks on the table, it shows that you are full and do not eat anymore. Do not place your chopsticks parallel on the top of your bowl. It is believed to bring bad luck. Do not stick your chopsticks straight up in your rice bowl. Do not put the end of the chopsticks in your mouth. Sometimes, try not to drop your chopsticks on some formal occasions.
This is also considered a sign of bad luck. After finishing the dinner, guests should help hosts clear away bowls and chopsticks and give them to the hosts. The hosts should rise and let the guests not work and sit down. These customs are also necessary in the modern times. At the banquet of the Western countries, they should sit bolt upright, and they think it is impolite to stoop down and to lower their heads. At the same time, they should keep a distance between their bodies and the table. It is appropriate for people to be able to use forks, knives and spoons.
It is not allowed to put their arms on the table or to stretch out their arms to stand in others’ way. They also should use the table napkin. The napkin only can be used to clean mouth and hands. Do not use it to clean utensils and even sweat. When finishing the dinner, you should put the napkin on the right of the dish. It is considered bad manners to make any noise while eating soup in Western countries, while it is not considered impolite to drink soup noisily in Asian countries. If the soup is hot, we can drink it when it becomes a bit cold. Do not blow it to make it cold.
When drinking the soup, people should use soup spoons from the inner to outer. After the soup is finished, they should leave the spoon in the bowl. Do not make the knife fork and spoon make a sound when you are eating the meal. If you do not use them, you just put them on the right places and do not play with them. In Western society, anyone who lifts their plate or bowl from the table is criticized. There are also correct and incorrect ways of using your cutlery at the dining table. Good etiquettes require a person to put food on the back of their fork; that is, not to use their forks as spoons.
However, most people do sometimes use their fork as a spoon when they eat some food, like rice, it is an impolite way to wave knives and forks when you are speaking. There is a different way to show finishing the dinner in the Western countries. At a Western banquet, if you want to have a break during the dinner, you should put the knife and fork in the middle of plate by the splay shape. If you put the knife and fork outside of the plate, it will be not safe and also it cannot have a good looking. In the Western countries, the hostess often is the master of the whole party.
The guests often need to behave properly, and they begin to eat the food when the hostess begins to eat. When finishing the dinner, it is common that the hostess leaves the table first and then the guests begin to leave. At this point, we can see that at the dinner, the ladies are in the important places. It can show their kindness of the gentlemen. “Lady first” often can be said by them and the gentlemen often can show their polite actions to the ladies. This is a good action for people and we should learn it. In the formal feast, there are many things that should be known and considered.
Especially at Western countries’ feast, people should know about those manners and customs. If not, people will make many mistakes, what is worse; their impolite ways can disturb and influence others. Sometimes, the action of people will be a joke for people to absorb into the big environment and to communicate with others well. As for foreigners, if they can learn about them well, it can make them adapt to the life of others. Third, there are also differences in the order of dishes. In China, the first dish is soup, and then the main food, such as rice. The last of the dinner is fruit that is used to expedite the assimilation.
In the Western countries, the order is vegetable, soup, fruit, drink and rice. The sweetmeat and coffee often are the last. Fourth, we have different requests for dressing. In China, people can be informally dressed, even T-shirts and jeans when they are in the restaurant. Only when they attend some formal feast, they will be grandly dressed. In the Western countries, if people go to the deluxe restaurant, the men should wear the clean coat and leather shoes, and the ladies should wear skirts and shoes with heels. If they are asked to wear the formal clothes, the men need to wear ties.
They cannot be dressed in casual wear to go to the restaurant to have the dinner. If they just do so, they will be considered to be impolite by others. If we have the chance to have formal dinners, we should remember to wear formal clothes. It can show your kindness and courtesy. C. Different Characteristics Food culture is not only related to eating, It is the culture that includes beliefs, views, philosophies, regions, art and other things that are related to food, and many new things have swarmed into our countries. Among them, there is the food culture. Many people desire to try different foods from different countries.
However, there are a few people who can really learn about these differences. The food culture of one country or one place can be the epitome of its culture. In order to increase communications between different nations, we should learn about these characteristics. 1. Different Dinner Service “The difference between the Eastern and Western civilization is primarily different in the tools used. The difference between the Western and the Chinese culture is primarily different in the dinner service. ” (?? , 2001:25) In China, chopsticks are the tool used for eating. Chopsticks can be dated from Chou Dynasty.
In the West, people often use knife and fork in the dinner. Knife and fork’s appearance is later than chopstick. Professor You Xiuling who is in Zhejiang University thinks that the West and the East turn up dinner services’ differences that are related to the environment. Chopstick should be invented in the place where there were bamboos. In the ancient period, our forefathers mainly used their hands to grasp and eat food. Later because people were fond of roasting food, but they could not directly use their hands to operate, they must depend on the branch to turn over the food.
As time passed, intelligent forefathers gradually learned to use bamboo slip to take food. Knife and forks originated from ancient nomadic Europeans. After they gradually settled down, livestock husbandry gave first place in Europe. Because of it, their principal food was meat. They must use knife to cut meat and send it to mouth. In order to improve the gesture of eating, European people used the fork in the 15th century. Until they settled down in the city, knife and fork were not in the kitchen. There was a history of four hundred or five hundred years for them to use knife and fork together.
Knife and fork and chopsticks not only bring diversities of eating’s habits, but also influence the Western and Chinese people’s views of life. Knife and fork bring the style of separating food, and chopsticks are suitable for having a meal with family members. (??? , 2003:1) The Western feature is derived that Western people are particular about independence, but the style of eating using chopstick make Chinese people have the firm family views. Chopsticks are a symbol of cultural traditions. Its characteristic is that unchangeability adapts to changeability. This is still what Chinese people are pride of and it is an advanced symbol.
The famous physicist PhD Li Zhengdao has perfect discussion for chopsticks’ advantages. He thinks that Chopsticks used the principle of lever and what hands can do. 2. Different Cookbooks and Reasons Chinese traditional agriculture kept many habits of hunting, and there are many cookbooks and lots of cooking devices. In China, although there is no agreement on the precise number of Chinese regional cuisines, those concerned with such matters agrees that the four principal culinary regions are Shandong, Sichuan, Canton and Yangzhou, with Fujian-Taiwan most commonly listed as a fifth.
At the same time, these designations are not hard and fast geographical boundaries. The cuisine of entire densely populated Yangtze River delta area, including Wuxi, Suzhou, Shanghai and Hangzhou dishes, falls under the category of Yangzhou cuisine. All over China, there are numerous local delicacies and foods unique to various ethnic groups are middle and low levels of food attract lots of consumers. Their food is also Chinese food’s main stream. In Chinese cooking, frying, deep-frying, stewing and other ways of cooking are made of various cooking devices.
Western traditional agriculture is animal husbandry, and plant products industry has a little wheat. Its cookbooks and cooking devices are fewer and simpler than China. As we all know, Western people like the bread, cake, cheese and other foods that often contain sugar. Another favorite food is the beefsteak with blood. The fast food is also very popular in Western countries. You can find a fast food chain, like McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut or Taco Bell. You also can get a hero or submarine sandwich “to stay” or “to go” from sandwich shop or deli.
It is related to the fast step of life. Now in Western countries, many ethnic restaurants are commonplace. Many Western countries are developed countries, and they become countries of immigrants. So there is an immense variety in its catering culture. In America, any large American city is filled with restaurants serving international cooking. Many cities even have ethnic sections: Chinatown, Little Italy, or Germantown. With this vast ethnic choice, we can enjoy food from all over the world. From this, we can feel that many food cultures are merging into other different food culture.
Now some Chinese foods have been directly absorbed into English form of Latin alphabets. Such as chow mein (?? ), don fujiang (??? ), won ton (?? ) and so on. At the same time, many foreign sweets and cakes are favorably received by Chinese people. III. The Unity of Food Cultures as Two Opposites Nowadays, technology develops so fast, and it needs every nation and every country to communicate with each other. It can make the world go on developing. Cultures in different countries are continuously advancing, changing and developing.
In this situation, every country will have the chance to absorb other cultures’ advantages. Cultural communication will clad to one manifestation-cultural assimilation. This is one kind of direction of cultural development. As communication is continuously deep-going, we all realize that we should learn about the characteristics of other cultures because we need to communicate with each other and we need to develop. If we do not know about these, it will be very hard to communicate with each other.
Now the economy is developing, and every country also wants to develop. If one country wants to develop, it cannot only communicate with itself. It needs to communicate with other countries, and it needs to learn about developments of other countries and the world. One country cannot develop itself if it does not communicate with others. This kind of communication makes us know more about other countries, including their cultures. Among these cultures, food culture is one kind of important culture. It can play an important role in the business.
In the business, the etiquettes of the food culture must be considered. It can be helpful for us to learn more about these etiquettes. It lets us adjust to these ones and let us become more easily to communicate with other people. We will have more topics to talk about. “Nowadays, all kinds of culture really enter an era of reciprocal link, reciprocal influence. So does the food culture. ” (??? ,2004:96) that is, people’s curiosity and each other’s adaptation. As China opens her door to the world, many new things rush into her. Among them, is food.
Fast food restaurants like KFC and McDonald’s are distinct American brands. Deep-rooted in the Chinese consciousness is the traditional culture of food and drink that features color, fragrance, flavor and variety. Fast food simply does not compare. Now that curiosity had faded, people returned to their own more extensive cuisine. Under such circumstances, the only way out was to combine the two different cultures. Fast food restaurants have been learning to absorb elements of Chinese culture. Since the summer of 2001, KFC has introduced many Chinese items onto their menus.
Consumers felt their traditions were being respected when they could taste Chinese cuisine at a foreign restaurant. The soup proved a success, and Mushroom Rice, tomato and Egg Soup, and Traditional Peking Chicken Roll were soon added to the menu. KFC also serves packets of Happy French Fry Shakes that contain beef, orange and Augur barbecue spices KFC and McDonald’s have absorbed the Chinese cultural elements of showing respect, recognition, understanding, assimilation and amalgamation, while maintaining the substance of the Western culture of efficiency, freedom, democracy, equality and humanity.
This inter-cultural management mode, with American business culture at the core, supplemented by Chinese traditional culture, provides reference for international enterprises which need to adjust, enrich and reconstruct their corporate culture to enhance local market flexibility. On the objective side, there must be similarities in environment in order for the two cultures to connect and synchronize. KFC and McDonald’s embody an accommodation of the fast tempo of modern life: a product of development and a market economy. China’s rapid economic development offered the environmental conditions corresponding to fast food culture.
Services offered by fast food chains express their full respect for freedom, an American value, as well as the psychological statement of Chinese open-mindedness that desires to understand and experience the Western lifestyle. As China’s integration into the world economy accelerates, Western food has grown from a small novelty into an emerging industry and an essential part of Chinese food culture. Western food has become more diversified and has increasingly provided Chinese consumers with unconventional enjoyment, a complete turn from traditional Chinese food culture.
China now has Western-style cuisine of various nationalities and special characteristics. French, German, and Italian restaurants are the most popular. In the Western countries, there are also many kinds of Chinese foods. Chinese foods are also very popular. The Chinese restaurants in the Western countries have grown in popularity among the Western people. Even the Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming has managed a Chinese restaurant in America. It is obvious that Chinese food has already been into Western countries. All kinds of foods become popular in the world, and many people begin to learn about the etiquettes of them.
People have become familiar with these etiquettes. These etiquettes have a large scale for the world. In order to enter other countries’ food culture, we should learn about these etiquettes. This is a good way for us to communicate with others and to adapt to other countries’ culture. The development needs us to know well about other countries, including their cultures. Every culture is the special one and it stands for one country. IV. Conclusion As we all know, different countries have different cultures. This paper just explains one small part of the food culture.
To learn about its etiquettes is the need of the development of one country. We should be not conserved. We should melt into the society, and we can learn from them. Every culture has its special place and it has its own features. (Larry, 2000: 20) We can learn many things from these cultures, and we can make our culture become more perfect. In the paper, we just discuss the characteristics of the food culture, the etiquettes of the food culture and their developments of these food cultures. No matter how the time flies, the trend of development is still all humans’ great harmony.
The emergency of the new concept named “the global village” is the embryonic form of future concept about the seven oceans and all humans extended family. Eating manners and customs have no exception. The concept of Chinese food is popular in Western countries. Chinese people have began to have interest in Western food little by little. These all proved that it is just a process for people to accept the other food culture. As time passes, diversities between Western and Chinese food culture can be conquered and realized to be identical.
Both of them are changing in order to adjust to the development of the world. The direction of development will be concerned. Assimilations, as one kind of direction of development, will become more and more. People from different countries will become familiar with these etiquettes of the different food cultures. People can understand these etiquettes from different countries. This is the need of the development of society. Bibliography Harris, Marvin. Cultural Anthropology [M]. New York, Harper & Row, Publishers. Inc. , 1987, 2 Larry. Samovar, Richard E.