To some degree, when you eat at a Chinese restaurant in the United States, it is understood that since you are not in China, what will be practiced is a combination of Chinese and American etiquette. Still, there are some things you simply should not do in any Chinese restaurant because they are considered to be poor manners or in poor taste. Here are a few of the most important behaviors to avoid.
1. Pointing with your chopsticks
You wouldn't point with your fork in an American restaurant — at least not anything above a fast-food level one — so you should not point with your chopsticks either. To do so can be tempting because the sticks do look like pointers, but this is considered very rude.
2. Leaving your chopsticks on your plate
This is considered a sign that you are done eating, so to leave your chopsticks sitting on your plate at any other time during the meal is considered rude because you are forcing the waitstaff to guess whether or not you would like them to clear your plate. If you need to take a break from eating for whatever reason, place your chopsticks on the table, not on a plate or dish.
3. Serve yourself with the eating end of the chopsticks
It is perfectly fine to serve yourself from a shared dish using your chopsticks. But you must be sure to do so with the opposite end of the sticks from that which you are using to eat. Putting the eating side of your chopsticks into a shared dish is considered rude, and for good reason — you're spreading germs. The Chinese are very considerate of one another's health, so this is a major offense.
4. Spear your food
Never use a chopstick to spear food and then eat it like you would with a fork. If you cannot pick food up properly with chopsticks, simply ask for a fork — most American Chinese restaurants do have them.
5. Lean over the table
If you are having to lean over the table in order to get smaller foods, like rice, into your mouth, then you need to take a different approach — bring the bowl or dish closer to your face. It is totally appropriate to hold your bowl while eating; this is far preferable to leaning over the table, which might result in hair falling into the food.
For more information, contact a local Asian restaurant.