How to Eat with Chopsticks

Two Methods:The ManeuveringChopstick Etiquette

Whether you love Asian cuisine and want eat your meal more authentically or are travelling abroad, there are many reasons to want to learn how to use chopsticks. Although it takes some practice to get used to, you'll never have to ask for a fork at a restaurant again!

Method 1
The Maneuvering

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    Pick up the first chopstick and place it between your middle finger and the base of your thumb. This one is your anchor -- it should not move. Stiffen your hand for a firm grip. Have the broad end of the chopstick lay in the crook of your hand, where your thumb and pointer finger connect. Rest the narrow end between the base of your thumb and the side of your index finger. It should be virtually immobile. It's similar to how you hold a pen, but a bit lower.
    • Some may prefer to hold the chopstick on the side of their ring finger, with the tip of their ring finger holding it in place. This frees the middle finger to hold the other chopstick more securely and provides that one with more control. It is a more formal approach.
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    Grip the second chopstick with your index finger and thumb. This is the stick that moves. Place your thumb over the side of the second chopstick, so it rests above the first. Adjust your grip to a more comfortable position. Make sure the narrow tips of the chopsticks are even with each other to help prevent them from crossing or being unable to "pinch" the food.
    • To get them even, you can tap them on the table. Uneven chopsticks will be very difficult to use.
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    Practice opening and closing the chopsticks. Make sure the broad ends of the chopsticks do not make an "X" as this will make it difficult to pick up food. Is only the top one moving? Great!
    • If it helps, move your hand up and down the chopsticks, but maintaining the same position, experimenting with levels of grip. Some find it easier to maneuver closer to the base, others further up.
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    Start picking up food! Working from a 45° angle may be easiest right now. Once you have it steady, lift 'er up. If it feels unstable, put it down and try again.
    • Once you get good at one type of food, move onto different sizes and textures. When you start feeling really confident, practice with noodles!

Method 2
Chopstick Etiquette

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    Know the rules when sharing food. Often at Asian dining tables (whether at home or at a restaurant) means sharing large plates of food. It's not proper to dive in to the communal meal with chopsticks that have just been in your mouth! You have two options:
    • Use a public pair of serving chopsticks that never touch your own (or anybody else's) bowl of rice/food
    • Pick with the other (non-eating) end of your chopsticks. That's the broad end that hopefully you're not chewing on!
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    Know what to do with them when not eating. The rules of chopsticking don't end once you have the food in your mouth, unfortunately. Each society has slightly different rules, but in general:
    • Don't stick your chopsticks upright in your food. It's looked at as a bad omen and is reminiscent of incense at funerals.
    • Don't spear your food with the ends of your chopsticks. If all else fails, it may seem like a good alternative, but it's viewed as impolite.
    • Don't pass food from chopstick to chopstick. Also funeral protocol and viewed as bad (or even ominous) table behavior.
    • Don't cross your chopsticks. If you're done eating, lay them to the side of your dish on the left.
    • Don't point at people with your chopsticks. Pointing in general is a no-no in Asian cultures and same goes with chopsticks.
      • This page would be far too long if all the rules were listed. These are the basics.
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    When eating rice, be willing to dig in. If a bowl of rice is placed in front of you and all you have are two small bamboo rods, you may feel like you're up a creek without a paddle. But it's perfectly acceptable (normal, rather) to lift the bowl of rice close to your mouth and work from there. You won't look foolish, you'll look seasoned!
    • You may feel a little like the Beast during his dinner with Belle, but rest assured, this is how it's done. Don't shovel the rice into your mouth like a caveman, but do lift up the bowl near to you to prevent rice drippings from accumulating around your eating area.
      • Japan has slightly stricter rules regarding this. If you're in China or Vietnam, for example, you may be able to shovel away.[1]


  • While it may seem easier at first to hold the chopsticks near their tips, holding them further back means that they are closer to parallel, which helps to scoop food (like rice) from below. You'll also be able to pick up larger pieces of food.
  • The difference between looking like an unlearned person and looking like a refined cultured person is shown when you hold chopsticks. Do not hold the chopsticks close to the end. The farther away your hands are from the food, the better. Do not stab food, as this is considered rude and/or an insult to the chef or cook who prepared the food.
  • Floppy and/or sliced foods like cold cuts or sliced cheeses are good to practice on. They're more forgiving than cubed foods while you're learning to keep the chopsticks lined up and how much pressure to apply.
  • This is the correct way to hold chopsticks. Ultimately, however, if you can comfortably pick up food and bring it to your mouth, you are effectively using chopsticks.
  • Wood or bamboo chopsticks are the easiest to use because of the gripping texture at the tip. Plastic ones will be harder to use. Metal chopsticks, as favored by the Koreans, are the hardest of all. Master one, and move up to the next. The next time you go out, your hosts will be impressed!
  • Take the chopsticks home to practice using them. Follow the steps above and lift a peanut, a pen, or a piece of fish. Try eating dinner with them.
  • Start out holding the chopsticks in the middle or closer to the tips while you get used to the movement and keeping the tips aligned. As you become more comfortable and confident, try holding the chopsticks closer to the broad ends.
  • Before you begin eating rice, noodles, and other things you may need chopsticks for, practice with bigger foods first like popcorn and marshmallows.
  • Apply a firm but gentle pressure on the food, just enough to keep the food from falling from the chopsticks. Too much pressure is more likely to cause your chopsticks to cross at the narrow ends unless they're perfectly aligned and could literally launch your food across the table.
  • Be patient as it takes a while to learn to use them correctly. It is perfectly permissible to ask for a fork or spoon if you get too frustrated.


  • Chinese etiquette says that you may lift your personal rice bowl close to your mouth with one hand, as you use the chopsticks to push the rice into your mouth. However, Korean etiquette says this is very bad form! Be aware of the people you are eating with, and what the customs are.
  • Avoid passing food with chopsticks. As in the previous warning, this resembles a section of the traditional Japanese funeral, where the family members pass bones using chopsticks. Instead, when passing food, place the food on an intermediary plate, preferably using a serving utensil or, if none is provided, turn your chopsticks around so the ends that have not been in your mouth touch the food, then give the plate to whomever.
  • Do not hit the bowl or plate with your chopsticks. It was what beggars did in ancient China.
  • Do not pick your teeth with your chopsticks, even if there is no toothpick where you dine.
  • Decide which food in the dish you want before putting your chopsticks in it. Picking things in the dish is considered very impolite.
  • It is not easy to use chopsticks so keep heart while learning how to.

Things You'll Need

  • Chopsticks
  • Food

Article Info

Categories: Dining Etiquette