This Food Faux Pas Is Considered Bad Luck In China

Different countries and cultures follow different societal conventions, especially as they relate to one activity we all love and that truly unites us: eating. But breaking bread together can also pose some serious challenges if you are not aware of the local customs. We've all heard the phrase, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do," and it definitely holds true when you travel to a new location around the globe and encounter an unfamiliar culture. That might especially hold true for many of us in a country like China, where food is such an important part of life. 

Per Intrepid Traveler, all the manners you would exercise at the dinner table in the United States can be placed on pause when in China. The blog shares that many of the table no-no's we find rude — burping, slurping, and chewing with your mouth open — are not viewed as offensive when dining in China. In fact, according to the blog The Cultural Frontier, those are actually signs that you are enjoying the meal. Using your bowl of rice to prop your chopsticks straight up in the air? That's an absolute don't-you-dare. Why? Because it is looks too much like sticks of incense which are lit as an offering for the dead. But one of the most offensive faux pas you can commit when dining in China is actually considered more than bad manners — it's bad luck.

Don't flip your fish over

Per Business Insider, if you order up a whole fish, never eat one side and then flip it over to eat the other, especially if you are headed to Macau for some gambling. Doing this with your whole fish is considered bad luck in the Chinese culture. According to USC Digital Folklore Archives, this superstition is well known and part of their folklore. It is believed that if you flip your fish, it could cause a fisherman's ship to flip over. Not the kind of accident anyone would want on their conscience. 

The individual who shared this shibboleth was a cinematic arts major at USC. She was from Shanghai, where fishing is an important way of life. She told the site, "It's a popular superstition in China. Even though not everyone follows it, everyone knows about it. My family use chopsticks to pull the flesh from beneath the fish after we are done with the front part. We don't have to explain why. We tacitly all agree not. For me, I don't believe that a fisherman's ship would flip if I turn over the fish. However, I just don't flip the fish." This makes a lot of sense to us. Why tempt the fates and push for bad luck?