Which is considered worse, holding your chopsticks the wrong way, or eating noisily?

Which is considered worse, holding your chopsticks the wrong way, or eating noisily?

TOKYO —

In Japanese eating culture, holding chopsticks improperly might be frowned upon (see: Proper Way to Hold Chopsticks), but how does it compare to that other notorious dinner table offense, chomping down on your food with your mouth open?

According to denizens of Japanese message board site 2channel, who recently discussed the matter in depth, noisily eating your food is a far graver crime than poor chopstick handling. Let’s take a close look at their discussion below.

First we should note that in Japan, the slurping soup or noodles is not included in the arena of eating noisily. Quite the opposite: slurping your udon or soba noodles at the dinner table is a tip of the hat to the chef, and with every slurp you are saying, “these noodles are amazing get in my mouth now.”

Instead, we are talking about the sound of food being tossed around and chewed in your mouth, covered in your saliva as you soften it up for digestion. A process which does not need to be audible, as we’re sure you’ll agree.

So which is worse: poor chopstick handling or eating with your mouth open? Here are what Japanese netizens had to say.

・”Noisy eating”
・”Definitely noisy eating is worse”
・”Not being able to hold your chopsticks right is laughable, noisy eating is not”
・”Noisy eating must be terminated”
・”Noisy eating is unbearable”
・”When a person eats noisily it is like their mouth goes slack”
・”My parents eat noisily. It’s horrible”
・”I don’t like noisy eating”
・”I can’t stand that sound”
・”No question about it, noisy eating is worse”
・”Noisy eating shouldn’t be allowed”
・”It’s dirty and offensive”

And so on…

It looks like noisy eating wins, no contest. Which is understandable. You can’t hear a person using their chopsticks wrong unless they’re drumming on the table with them. Eating with your mouth open is far less easy to ignore.

However, most people seem to unanimously frown upon poor chopstick holding as well. ”It makes a person’s upbringing questionable when you see them holding their chopsticks wrong,” comments one. Many people agree that they don’t want to sit with someone who can’t use chopsticks properly. Chopstick holding is an important part of eating properly, only not so noticeable.

It has also been observed that these days, many foreigners can hold their chopsticks better than Japanese people. Did you hear that guys!? “You’re very good at using chopsticks!“

It looks like being well-mannered in Japan means eating quietly and using your chopsticks correctly. It is probably safe to say that nobody outside of a noodle shop likes a noisy eater.

Source: Yukawanet.com

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  • 7

    borscht

    Worse than making noise while you eat is watching some salary-drone is talking with a mouthful of anything. Natto is the worst.

  • 6

    JapanGal

    I get up and move if some horse starts eating next to me. And even worse then that is the clown that plays dentist with the tooth pick, both male and female, to clean up the dregs caught in between rotted teeth and bad gums. That sucking makes me sick to my stomach.

  • 5

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    I remember a few years ago, we were at a welcome and farewell lunch for some staff who were leaving.

    My halfwit of a boss was sitting next to me and he took me to task, saying I can't use chopsticks. I pointed out that, on the contrary, I can use chopsticks, I learned how to use them long before I came to Japan because - guess what? - They aren't uniquely Japanese, and that, if he would care to look at my hand, he would see that I was actually using them at the time.

    He replied, "Ah yes, but you should use them more elegantly".

    As he said "elegantly", piece of chewed-up rice flew from his mouth and landed on the lap of my brand new suit.

    I did not ask his advice any further on points of etiquette. But he is one of the few people I've ever met who made the slurping-noodles racket whilst eating curry and rice.

  • 4

    Jaymann

    That being the case why is a dinner with the average Japanese person like walking around a farmyard ( when thinking about eating noise)? I mean seriously, noodles I can understand - but I've seen old guys slurping sandwiches!

  • 4

    bass4funk

    Eating noisily is THE worst, no doubt. But why is it that Japanese people are so amazed to see a westerner use chopsticks and to use it properly at that? Sometimes, Japanese people think that using chopsticks is something that apparently only Asians can utilize. When I hear comments like "you use chopsticks very well, I humbly say, you use a fork and knife very well" the perplexed look I get to see on their faces-priceless.

  • 4

    BertieWooster

    You mean you use BOTH chopsticks?

    In the same hand?

    Oh!

  • 3

    KariHaruka

    chomping down on your food with your mouth open?

    Massive pet hate of mine. I can't stand people who eat with their mouth open. I quickly taught my daughter how to eat with her mouth closed along with other table manners. I'm generally relaxed about things but correct table manners is an important issue for me.

  • 3

    USNinJapan2

    Making noise (some, definitely not a lot) while eating a Japanese meal is acceptable. What I can't stand are well-off and ostensibly cultured Japanese people like doctors and other professionals who eat a fancy or formal Western meal the same way they would eat a Japanese meal,, e.g. picking up dishes/bowls, slurping soups and pasta, using chopsticks for everything, etc. It's so embarassing, especially if you're unfortunate enough to be actually dining with them...

  • 3

    Maria

    I think commenting on a person's use of cutlery (unless it's your kid or relative) is plain bad manners. Public mastication is a no-no. Talking with your mouth full is a no-no. Using a toothpick at the table is kin to picking your nose. If you need to do it, go to the bathroom. Covering your mouth does not count as good manners .

    Still, I try not to judge too quickly as there are exceptions - some elderly people may have issues with teeth, jaw power, dentures etc. and can't help it / have to chew loudly.

  • 3

    Eigen

    Some Japanese people I know make the most disgusting sounds while eating a meal. The one that gets me the most is how they go above and beyond the noises most do while eating ramen. The slurp, while I can't understand WHY it's so important when it sounds so nasty, I can identify with the norm here. It's when they slurp and proceed to clear their throats and snort their runny nose because it was tantanmen loudly. It's just plain nasty.

  • 2

    Cos

    If at my people at my table don't smoke, don't get drunk, have clean hands, don't splash food all over, don't make some visually disgusting mixture/mashing, don't waste the food, are not unpleasant... I won't complain of other imperfections.

  • 2

    ThonTaddeo

    Ivan, that's a great tale! It's not just Asians who insist on "proper" chopstick holding -- I have a traumatic memory of being taught the "correct" way to hold chopsticks in the US!

    I was about 8 or 9 years old and was eating at a Chinese restaurant with my family. I expressed an interest in trying to use chopsticks and picked them up and started trying to figure out how to hold them.

    My father, who had lived in Asia, tried to instruct me. He hands me the first chopstick and says, "Hold it like you hold a pen." He gives me a stop-fooling around look. "That's what I'm doing," I say. But he repeats, angrier, "Hold it. Like you hold. A PEN."

    In absolute terror and having no idea what to do, I closed my eyes, envisioned the chopstick as if it were a pen and I was about to write something with it. I was holding it in exactly the same way as I would hold any writing implement.

    Fortunately dad managed to restrain himself, took the chopsticks out of my hand, and forcefully handed me a fork; the chopstick lesson was over before it began.

    Not until about a decade later did I notice that right-handers hold their pens quite differently from us lefties, and when I noticed that, the terror of my first attempt with chopsticks was finally explained. Dear old Dad, a right-hander ignorant of how the rest of us do things, should have said "Hold it like I hold a pen!"

    I ended up learning it on my own, with a somewhat different way of holding them, but I can eat just fine. So I will never, ever hold it against someone if they hold chopsticks in the "wrong" way. Whatever way you want is fine, as long as the food gets from the plate to your mouth without getting spilled all over the place. Noisy eating, on the other hand... there's no excuse for that!

  • 2

    caffeinebuzz

    While we're on anecdotes about this, when I was running a class in Japan with a teacher there, he asked me how I eat soup. I said with the bowl on the table and using a spoon. He smirked and said in front of the class; "In Japan we lift the bowl because not handling it is the habit of dogs".

    I shot back with "In my house we sit up at a table because the floor is for our dogs". Cue giggling kids and a deer in the headlights reaction. What is normal for one can be completely weird for another, so why worry.

  • 2

    kaminarioyaji

    Both of these "bad manners" are trumped by lighting up a cigarette next to the person still mid-meal without asking them if they mind; the Japanese excel at this.

  • 1

    SquidBert

    I am surprised about the results of this scientific work, but I agree with them.

  • 1

    sighclops

    Doubly worse if it's an obachan, especially when talking at the same time.

  • 1

    Pattie Inoue

    My better half is a helluva noisy eater. Not one to suffer in silence i chide him about it constantly. Sixteen years into our marriage and he's still at it. I always remind myself not to sweat the small stuff but one of these days.......

  • 1

    Baibaikin

    I mean seriously, noodles I can understand - but I've seen old guys slurping sandwiches!

    Yup. I've been here a long time and still marvel at the noise people can make when they eat things that you wouldn't normally expect to hear noise from. I'm told that making noise makes the food taste better... .

    The subject of the article seems bizarre to me as the majority of men, and many women, make as much noise as the average farm animal here when they eat. The speed can also be staggering. My father in law generally has a toothpick in hand long before I'm done with the starter. -BURP-. On a positive note, though, at least the rapid turnover at restaurants means that waiting time is limited.

  • 1

    Thunderbird2

    I used to find noodle-slurping really annoying... until I started doing it myself. I noticed that the people I was with looked at me if I tried to eat noodles like I was eating Spag Bol, so to coin a phrase, when in Rome...

    I have to agree that eating with the mouth open is pretty disgusting. I can use hashi... but noodles are a challenge.

  • 1

    cleo

    Hashi ar4e easy but still make little sense as eating implements. spoons and forks way better.

    Depends on what you're eating.

    You could argue that a stemmed glass makes little sense for drinking out of - far too fragile - and that a good sturdy pewter tankard is way better. But I'd rather have my wine in a stemmed glass, my coffee/tea in a cup or mug and my water in a tumbler.

  • 1

    Konsta

    And I thought, the worst was to put the noodles on the bowl lid and eat it silently with the correctly used chopsticks, like that sexy Korean movie star did over the Internet some time ago... :)

  • 1

    bass4funk

    Personally, I think most Japanese women eat well, don't make a lot of noise, usually, but the men and kids, that's a totally completely different dimension. One of my daughters friend came over to our house awhile back to have dinner with use. The ate slightly with her head down, elbow on the table and kept smacking like a cow. I had to tell her twice to please refrain from doing that, she asked me "why is it a bad thing?" I told her because its rude. She had a very bewildered look on her face. Later that evening, her mom came by to pick her up. I told the mom directly what her daughter did and asked her if she teaches her daughter that smacking is very rude and she said, " her husband does it all the time and her daughter thinks its ok because HE (the father) thinks it's no big deal. So the point is, it starts in the home,if you can't properly control and teach children in the home as to what proper etiquette is, then they will never learn. I fear a lot of men are suffering from this problem in this country, as well as sniffling, sucking in your snot, clearing your throat and cutting your finger nails, cleaning your teeth are all at the table totally acceptable.

  • 1

    hoserfella

    Ivan - I knew from the headline I was in for a good story from you.

    A colleague in my office after eating his lunch - like its feeding time at the zoo, of course - proceeds to sit back and loudly suck every tobacco-blackened tooth in his cakehole. I can only imagine the poor woman he is married to.

  • 1

    Cliffy

    Noisy eating, chew with mouth open, sucking fingers and noises of sucking tooth after meal. Well, I am sure I do not hold the chopsticks correctly, then again, I can use either hand to hold chopsticks to eat and pick up food (depends on where I want to reach). That's why I would not say anything about chopsticks otherwise I would be incriminating myself.

  • 1

    Jimizo

    I remember my colleague coming back from Yoshinoya with a grain of rice stuck to his eyebrow. Using a bowl as a nose bag is not good.

  • 1

    slumdog

    Which is considered worse, holding your chopsticks the wrong way, or eating noisily?

    Not having any food to eat.

  • 1

    megosaa

    having lived in different parts of the world for the past 40 odd years, i'd have to say it all comes down to "tolerance". i have encountered various eating habits and while it used to bother me but now, nothing fazes me no more.

    we need to understand some are brought up the way they are and some cultures allow that. like i said, nothing grosses me out and i have learnt to accept for i am sure each of us have something that offends others at the table so i just enjoy my food and that's that. unless some joker decides to remove his chicken and starts choking it, i would think twice about having poultry on my menu.

  • 1

    cl400

    tsukkiDec. 11, 2012 - 04:58PM JST i rarely hear japanese who eat noisily. the usual culprits are chinese guys. I think Tsukki was taking a PUN at how Chinese are often blamed for crimes, etc here. Well, maybe he/she was. Don't forget the noises they make when sitting down, getting up, reaching for something, etc, etc... all in public at our favourite cheap eatery.

  • 1

    Joseph Perry

    Ya, noisy eating irritated the hell out of me in Beijing. It was the worst I'd ever seen throughout six countries in Asia. My homestay family was actually proud of it too. ~______~ They jeered me for eating so quietly and slowly, but I have to admit half of the fare I had no clue what it was, and eating a spare rib served cold?!?! Was quite shocked, to say the least. Japan eating habits and cuisine were far more easier to bear.

  • 0

    Betraythetrust!

    So how you eat in Japan is also considered part of the culture now, good grief, i learn something new everyday.

  • 0

    cleo

    OMG, I agree with 2chan on something.......arrgh

  • 0

    WilliB

    " According to denizens of Japanese message board site 2channel, who recently discussed the matter in depth, noisily eating your food is a far graver crime than poor chopstick handling. "

    Really! I find that totally surprising, seeing how slurping and smacking is pretty much the norm in local eateries. On the other hand, you can make your Japanese friends go totally ballistic if you e.g. stick your chopsticks in the rice bow. I don´t know how they found these Japanese "netizens", but their opinion does not match with my experience.

  • 0

    bass4funk

    Personally, I think most Japanese women eat well, don't make a lot of noise, usually, but the men and kids, that's a totally completely different dimension. One of my daughters friend came over to our house awhile back to have dinner with use. The ate slightly with her head down, elbow on the table and kept smacking like a cow. I had to tell her twice to please refrain from doing that, she asked me "why is it a bad thing?" I told her because its rude. She had a very bewildered look on her face. Later that evening, her mom came by to pick her up. I told the mom directly what her daughter did and asked her if she teaches her daughter that smacking is very rude and she said, " her husband does it all the time and her daughter thinks its ok because HE (the father) thinks it's no big deal. So the point is, it starts in the home,if you can't properly control and teach children in the home as to what proper etiquette is, then they will never learn. I fear a lot of men are suffering from this problem in this country, as well as sniffling, sucking in your snot, clearing your throat and cutting your finger nails, cleaning your teeth are all at the table totally acceptable.

  • 0

    Serrano

    "chomping down on your food with your mouth open... I can't stand people who eat with their mouth open"

    Har! I challenge anyone to eat with their mouth closed! What are you going to do, snort it up your nose? Ha ha!

    How about licking your fingers after eating Kentucky Fried Chicken? Mmm, mmm, good!
    No wait, that's Campbell's soup...

  • 0

    Fadamor

    We (my siblings and I) were taught as kids to chew with the lips closed and to not talk until the mouth had been cleared. As such I really can't imagine it being an issue in Japan. I feel kind of bad for you guys, now.

    As for chopstick manipulation... I'm good for about 5 minutes of continuous use, but after that the hand starts cramping up and I'm left with two sticks waving around in every direction except the ones they're supposed to be moving in. I suppose mastery comes with practice and use, but I just don't get enough opportunities to practice here in the States.

  • 0

    sfjp330

    This article is somewhat erroneous. Chopstick etiquette varies from culture to culture in East Asia. I had no idea there was this much etiquette involved with using chopsticks. Skipping eating utensils altogether is easier, if that's what you are aiming for. Just stick your face in your plate and chew.

  • 0

    Thomas Proskow

    In Japan, old people tend to eat noisily. Eating noisily being bad manners is something fairly "last 30 years" in Japan.

    Also, talking with your mouth full is something Japanese people tend to do a lot which I find extremely irritating. At dinnertime, conversation is seen as being almost as important as the food, and I've even occasionally been shunned for being "too quiet and untalkative" during dinner parties. Personally, I enjoy meals in silence and solitude....

  • 0

    cl400

    Actually... I'm wondering... are table manners taught here? People light up when we are still eating, talk with their mouth full, as mentioned... when sharing meals rarely offer food around, especially when there is only a bit left... and just the other day I saw a guy pick up the menu to sneeze into it (then he put it back).

  • 0

    ensnaturae2

    love the thought of drumming with chopsticks!!! - mini taiko on the tabletop, or upturned miso soup bowl. Never seen it done - can we start a 'thing'? As for noisy eaters - cant EVER remember hearing anyone eat in jp - must be a lot to do with which CAFF you choose to eat in? ditto ref sneezing into the menu? Ive been ticked off for not doing the right thing with my sushi ('no - it isnt alright to take the top layer off and eat the rice bit after') and no - I dont eat in all the best places - unless those super caffs in Ameyoko where everyone sits on beer crates count as 'best'? Or (also super) real hot Indian curry and popodum restaurants - and sushi conveyor belt caffs - count as 'best' or 'Gratin' Italian? Or coin in the slot Noodles? From Hokkaido to Okinawa - where DO you go to eat to meet these strange guys who sound like they eat like feeding time in Ueno zoo? Tell me - Ill do the places as a tourist.

  • -1

    seesaw1

    I thought the opinions would be the opposite. Noisy eating refers to Japanese and poor chopstick manners refer to gaijin...

  • -1

    monolocco

    Eating loudly is up there with eating with your mouth full and talking with your mouth full for me. And it seems Japanese are "KING" when it comes to this. How in your right mind (having common sense) would you not think it's disgusting and distatefull to do these things in front of people, it boggles the mind sometimes. I don't care what culture you come from that is just disgusting when you are slurping on something and it goes all over yourself and other people near you as well when chewing loudly like a cow and talking with your mouth full while bits and pieces go flying to you or near you. YUCK As for holding your chopsticks the wrong way that is just silly people would get offenced by that. I have seen so many japanese hold spoons, pens, pencils the wrong way and even westerners. So why should it offend you?!? It makes no sense. If it does easy solution, just don't look at them.

  • -1

    AKBfan

    Hashi ar4e easy but still make little sense as eating implements. spoons and forks way better.

    Eating noisiliy is rude the world over. seems to be part of the process in Japan.

  • -1

    Kent Mcgraw

    Both slurping and chewing with your mouth open disgust me. Slurping is childish as is eating with the mouth open.

  • -1

    C Harald Hansen

    As a westerner, I'm not too worried about being meticulous with things such as these. The only place I draw the line is eating with open mouth, I've always found that rather disgusting. I don't want to see people's half masticated food swirling around in their mouth.

  • -2

    monolocco

    @ Dragonclous64. Thank you, I am very proud of that accomplishement :P

  • -3

    Korlacan Khanthavilay

    Who cares how people utilize chopsticks? It doesn't affect anyone. As long as they get the food to their mouth. When they eat like a horse, that's a different story. I can hear it.

  • -5

    ebisen

    People always praise my hashi skills, some of them try to emulate my way of holding them. The truth is that I learned how to use them in about 3 days, (as a student, 15 years ago). I'm sure that my classical piano and guitar skill have helped with this, as it gives the brain the power to control individual finger joints separately.

  • -5

    tsukki

    i rarely hear japanese who eat noisily. the usual culprits are chinese guys.

  • -5

    smithinjapan

    "First we should note that in Japan, the slurping soup or noodles is not included in the arena of eating noisily."

    Then it's pretty moot, isn't it? I mean, what's holding your chopsticks wrong? 90% of people don't hold them 'correctly', if you were to consult an expert on etiquette. It's all relative, and sorry, but slurping is noise, bottom line.

    As to the 'debate' itself, I'd definitely say that eating noisily is 'graver' than holding chopsticks poorly, but I think you'll find 100% of Westerners feel that way.

  • -5

    Tessa

    I went on a luxury two-night cruise around Japan, and most mealtimes I had to share my table with middle-aged Japanese baby-boomers who didn't have a clue about "our" table manners. Most of them managed to slurp every single food on their plates, even the salads. One man even ate his peas on his knife! And you know what? I didn't care, because they were really sweet, shy, non-assuming people, and I enjoyed talking with them, even briefly. (And fortunately smoking was forbidden on that cruise, otherwise I would've been far less forgiving).

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