Have you eaten yet?

 

This is a very basic manner in Asia.  When someone come to your house as a guest, you will always ask whether they have eaten or not.   Especially if you setup an appointment around meal time, you will automatically assume they haven't eaten yet and offer food first before you go on to any business you were originally planning for.  so if any of you ever travel to Asia, you should be hearing this phrase quite often.  'Have you eaten yet?' might be the very next sentence they asked right after they said 'hello', before they even ask your name. 

 

In taiwanese, we said 'Jia-ba-me?'.  It's very common phrase people used to ask you instead of saying hello.  In Chinese, we said 'Tzi-bou-le-me?'

 

The reason of that is because there's a saying coming from acient Chinese that 'it is equally important as emporer when people are eating.' (吃飯皇帝大)We believe that the stomach should be satisfied before the brain can think.   So when we eat, we like to sit on the table together and concentrate on eating rather than watching TV or reading Newspaper.   In very traditional Chinese family, there will not be doing anything else other than sitting together around the table and eat.   We believe this is time for family to get together and talk about things that happens throughout the day.  (Well, some family might prefer to be quiet when they eat.) But what's important of all, is that everyone is together.  The only time that whole family is gather together, we shall not do anything else to interrupt that kind of wholeness, but enjoy the food and celebrate the day.  

 

Just like Italian would drop everything for pleasure.  Chinese could drop everything for food.  When it's meal time, we believe you should always drop everything your are doing and come to eat, because nothing is more important than eating together with your family or friend.   

 

Because of this culture, you should also notice that as much as most Asian enjoy bargaining on almost everything, they had never bargained around food.  Because we believe food is the source of all our energy.  So understand our background and culture, you will now understand why lot of Chinese like to start the conversation by asking whether you have eaten yet. 

 

As a host, we would always like to make sure there's food available around the house to offer to our guest.  If we do host the party, we will always make sure our food is always more than we need rather than not enough.  Because, you should always satisfy your guest's stomach before you want to continue your business.  Of course, the meal is not always expected outside the meal time or business location.  But if you ever invite Asian to your house around meal time, (For your reference, it would be sometimes around 11AM to 1:30PM for lunch, or 5:30PM-8PM for dinner) please do understand that they might expect food from you unless you specified. or most of them would prefer to meet in the restaurant, so they could eat and talk business at the same time. 

 

"Have you eaten yet?" 

 

It's a way that Asian show their hospitality and warm connection with you.  So if you ever invite some Asian to your house as guest around the meal time, please do not forget to ask your guest "have you eaten yet?" since some kind of food will be expected at that time.  (Well, not everyone will say yes. but you will still have to ask due to the manner.)  Otherwise, try to avoid meal time.  Check with their schedule to make sure they would have eaten the meal with their family before they come to see you.

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Ruowen Huang

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