Just How Rude are You? The Chopstick Test

As if the Offspring didn`t cause enough raised eyebrows at home with their barn like behavior at the trough supper table, now the Japanese we encounter while dining have concluded somewhere hidden underneath those clothes is a curly tail. Amidst the smacking, elbows resting on any available surface and incorrect handling of all foreign dining objects, including a fork, my sole remaining hope for improved table manners rests on an over dramatic and disgusted look from an attractive member of the opposite sex.

But I keep trying.

Mushing on in spite of this relentless uphill assault.

Do you belong with my bovine? Test your chopstick chops….

The Chopstick Test

First Scenario

Junko- san and the man of her dreams, Andretti-san, take their place at the counter  for ramen and romance. Andretti-san unwraps the paper from his chopsticks and rubs them together, smoothing off any splinters that appeared when he broke them in half. Junko-san covertly scans the room for other eligible bachelors.

What caused Junko-san to lose that loving feeling?

1) Andretti-san outed himself as a Neanderthal – he was supposed to sharpen Junko-san`s chopsticks before working on his own.

2) What is he expecting? Splinters? Is he going to rub the chopsticks around in his mouth and along his lips in a show of what`s to come? Sharpening his chopsticks proved he was raised along with my Offspring somewhere beyond the Lions Sign at the entrance to town.

3) He actually didn`t do anything wrong. Junko-san was in fact looking for the waiter so she could order up the sake and get the party started.


Subtract 15 points if you picked #1. Although it`s a good instinct to manhandle your partners chopsticks thus proving you can handle things around the ranch, it`s not de rigueur to do so. What Andretti-san did wrong was to sharpen the chopsticks. HOW AMERICAN  RUDE!

Like #2? Give yourself 30 points if you recognized he is an escapee from a hoofed herd. The Asians have been using wooden chopsticks for centuries without employing tweezers at the close of every meal.  No need to smooth the edges.

You picked #3? 3 points for participation.

Second Scenario

We`ve all been there. Some things just can`t be managed with chopsticks. Junko-san was chasing a slippery gyoza which continued to slide through her chopsticks, fall in the ponzu sauce and splash all over her faux fur stole. Junko-san is no dummy, she graduated from the Harvard of Japan, Tokyo University, so she stabbed it in the middle and nibbled delicately off the chopstick while Andretti-san watched mesmerized.

What is the reason behind this gyoza guffaw?

1) Andretti-san is actually mesmerized at her complete lack of couth. Never stab food with chopsticks even if you`ve sharpened them to a fine point and whittled off all the stray splinters.

2) Andretti-san was actually trying to figure out how to tell her she had a big ball of pepper between her front teeth without killing the mood.

3) Andretti-san was having the same problem so he skewered a gyoza and nibbled away while staring into Junko-san`s unblinking eyes. The sake was sinking in. Those were some damn good gyoza. No problem here.


15 points for number one. No matter how it slides, shivers, shakes or tries to run away, stabbing is not allowed.

10 Sympathy points for the second answer. You`re rude, but at least you`re empathetic.

Negative 15 for #3 – As a general rule for living one`s life, it is never ok to stab. How many times do I remind the OS of that during a day?

Scenario 3

Junko-san sees someone she knows across the restaurant.

J- “Over there- see her? The Lolita dressed like a Little Bo Peep doll – cute blue hat with the blonde wig and staff?”

A- ” Where? ” Andretti-san is more focused on his yakitori.

Junko-san points toward Bo with her chopsticks.

Now she gets his attention.

A- “That`s hot.”

Other than a fetish for vixen highlighted in nursery rhymes, what`s wrong here?

1) Just like your guns, leave the staff at the door. And knives, ropes, ninja stars, or samurai swords.

2) Bo, your peeps know not to wear that hat inside.

3) Pointing with chopsticks? Honestly. How many times did your mother tell you not to point your gun at people, point your finger at people, or poke at people with  pointy objects – especially in the vicinity of the eyes? Sheesh.


Checked 1? 15 points for knowing to leave the artillery at the entrance.

2 your final answer? 5 points- everybody knows not to wear a hat inside.

3- Add 20 points to your tally. If “point” is part of the discussion, it`s always the answer.

Scenario 4

Andretti-san has just been served a whole, fried sardine. He salivates thinking of how delicious the combination of innards and crunchy skin will taste. But he is face to face with a dilemma. How to eat this tasty treat?

Something is fishy here….

1) He picks up the fish with his chopsticks and eats it, one bite at a time. No cutting required.

2) He takes his chopsticks and using one in each hand separates the meat from the bone. Bon appetit!

3) He puts his chopsticks together and cuts it by mashing down on the fish until it separates under the points of the sticks.

…. Would Renee – my favorite professor at Renee A. Schuls-Jacobsen`s Blog– employ this trickery with students on occasion? (Can someone tell me how to get the ‘ over a letter? Damn!)


Give yourself 30 points if you knew both #1 and #3 are correct. When taking on more than a mouthful with chopsticks, it`s perfectly ok to bite off the correct size without cutting it first. If you do have to cut, don`t pull the food apart using each chopstick or by trying to scissor with the chopsticks.

You know the drill- since #2 is absolutely wrong, take off 15 points.

Scenario 5

Junko-san wants a piece of yakitori from Andretti-san`s plate. He takes a piece of meat with his chopsticks and holds it in the air for her to take using her chopsticks. She takes it, dips it in the sauce using her chopsticks, and eats it.

They are good with the chopsticks, but something is wrong.

1) No matter how good it looks, no sharing unless it`s from the family style plate in the center of the table.

2) She must say “Honto” after she accepts the meat as a polite gesture.

3) The only time anything is passed directly from one person`s chopsticks to another is at a funeral. On that occasion, the anything is the bones of the deceased.


#1- here`s 5 points for participation, and it`s fine to share food as long as it`s done correctly.

#2- I made that up completely. Honto means “really?” in Japanese. It also makes me laugh every time I hear it. I use it all the time and laugh at myself. No one else sees the humor. 0 points.

#3- 15 points. True that. One thing I`ve learned about funerals in other cultures. (the hard way) Before attending one read up so there are no uncomfortable surprises- especially if your children are there.

Scenario 6

Andretti-san leans back in his chair, rubs his full belly and shows his appreciation with a base heavy belch. He then places his chopsticks in the rice. All done.

What now?

1) Belching at the table is a show of appreciation- along with slurping of the noodles. The wait staff and chef bow in thanks for this customer`s display.

2) Is there no end to Andretti-san`s bad manners? Please don`t stick the chopsticks in anything. Especially in a bowl of rice. Another ritual best left to funerals, which is the only time chopsticks are stuck in rice.

3) Belly rubbing is only for Buddha and he is not ALL OF THAT.  His view of himself is distorted and offensive to the other customers.


A? Give yourself 10 points for being half right. Slurping noodles is a sign of a good noodle and the chef will bathe in the appreciation. On the other hand, is belching ever polite? Probably somewhere, but not here.

B- 30 points for this. Really Andretti-san you are part of the barnyard crew.

C- I made that up. It just looks rude and disgusting. 0 points.

Your tally? 100? You`re ready to be a contributing editor to Miss Manners.

If your score is negative, ditch the eating implements and just eat directly off the plate. Lick your fingers and throw food at the chef if you don` t like it. You won`t seem anymore rude than you already are.

Between 0-90- There`s hope. You`ve got good instincts at least.

There you have it. Even though most chopsticks are throw away and come packaged with a toothpick the rules still apply.

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42 Responses to Just How Rude are You? The Chopstick Test

  1. Emily! You are making me think about my ESL student from many years ago and some funny little rituals he did when I first met him which I later came to learn were acts of respect to one’s teacher. How I would love to find him! What a fun piece! And maybe I will share that story. Adding it to the list of stories to tell now.

    Meanwhile, do you have a Mac? If so hold down the OPTION key and press the e. The accent will appear — and then hit the e again. Voila. That’s how you get my accent et gout on a Mac. If you are on a PC? Um, you are on your own. Google it. 😉

    Also, my blog isn’t called “Teachers & Twits” anymore — except on Facebook. In the blogosphere, I just go by my name. I have been since my computer died in August. So if you are ever looking for me search for “Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson’s Blog.” Or head lice. People seem to find me that way, too. 😉

    Just thought you should know — in case I ever deactivate that FB account. I wish there was a way to change the name and make things more current!


    • Thanks Renee- and thanks for the tip- still trying to get my computer to cooperate-it keeps putting a space in-(cuss cuss cuss) in the meantime I updated so people can actually find you without typing in head lice!
      I bet you have some great stories…..


  2. Tar-Buns says:

    Your post hit a nerve with me. Even after all these years since I lived in Japan, I remember having the privilege (and deep sadness) of attending the funeral for my gentle English Teacher’s 4 year old daughter. She had been in an auto accident with Grandpa and died after some time in a coma. That’s when I learned about the dos and donts of Japanese culture at funerals.

    Any Gaigin could also watch the “Mr. Baseball” movie with Tom Selleck, which points out some of these very culture sensitive directives. (I don’t care what anyone says – Tom is still a handsome hunk of yum in my mind. 🙂

    I also witnessed one of my English teachers getting married. She was 28 and was questioned about being an old Maid. LOL. It was a semi-arranged marriage. He was cute and smiled a lot so I was hopeful for them. That’s another blog post for you – the changing into and out of 3 dresses/kimono in the course of a wedding ceremony.

    I truly was lucky to witness these events with people I knew and cared for. The little girl dying was a terrible tragedy.

    Sure wish I was in touch with my friends in Moriya, Ibaraki. Just not a priority these days with Mom and Dad’s health issues and my job on the line and all that.

    Anyway, enjoyed your post immensely. Seasons Greetings to you and yours!


  3. Loved this piece! So fun!
    (You can try hitting Ctrl+’ and then “e” for an accent et gout over it. Works on my PC)


  4. As always your posts are so creative and thoroughly entertaining. Reminds me of some of the food etiquette I learned while living in Qatar and eating local food (i.e. no utensils.. took getting used to!) Great job, loved it!


  5. Ha! I passed all except Scenario #4 with the sardine.My father would cut the fish or other large piece of food by using one chopstick to hold down the food and the other to cut it or pull it apart. I’m not sure if that was just his Americanized version of using chopsticks as if they wee like a knife and fork, or if Dad was just clueless when it came to table manners. (My raised-in-Japan mom said he was.) 😀 I still can’t get used to seeing someone pick up a whole fish and cram it into his mouth, however. Especially head first!


    • It`s the only Japanese food I just can`t get down. And I`ve eaten it all. The small ones that can be managed in one bite or ok but one bite and then seeing the insides, knowing the mouth and eyes are in your mouth- that`s a hurdle for me. SO- I give all mine to OS#1 who hasn`t met a food he didn`t like.


  6. Emily – I am really struggling with chopsticks and bones of the deceased in the same sentence – help? Honto?


    • During the funeral ceremony, cremated bones of the deceased are passed from one person to another via chopsticks and then placed in an urn.

      So now you see why you get the looks if you don`t pay attention to the basics of using the chopsticks!


      • What about China? Are the rules similar?


      • Ok…. – that raises a few more questions (and at least 50% of the hair at the back of my neck!)….What happens if your chopstick slips and the bones drop on the floor? Do you have to get chopstick certification before they allow you into the bone-passing circle? Do you take your chopsticks with to the meal afterwards?


  7. In China – I’m not sure about the bone-passing ritual – haven’t been to a funeral here yet. Some of the rules are the same – chopsticks sticking up in the bowl, stabbing, waving & pointing and all those no-no’s are the same. But belching is acceptable!


  8. Stark naked reality your test is…


  9. HILARIOUS, my friend. Wonder what it says about me that I lived in Vietnam for a year and still managed to fail Chopsticks 101?


  10. Great post! It’s difficult to eat politely when you’re not that co-ordinated with your chopsticks. Scenario 4 #1 would be near impossible for me to manage. At least I now know how I’m supposed to behave in Japan . . .


    • When I got here I didn`t hold them correctly. Now I`m as comfortable with chopsticks as a fork. Hard to believe! Love the pics of the trees in your latest post. My phone wouldn`t let me like it! RRR


  11. tori nelson says:

    “As a general rule for living one`s life, it is never ok to stab.” That’s it. I fail big time 🙂


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  13. scotandmoon says:

    Used to get chastized for pointing with my chopsticks, but stopped. Great post, very entertaining.


  14. Emily what an informative fun post and whenever I got a wrong answer I quickly added..o that’s what I meant! So I got perfect. Keep on educating us!


  15. Somehow I’ve ended up with negative 1,000 points. I’m sorry to say I would be the embarrassment at your dinner table.
    May I please have a knife and fork?


  16. Dana says:

    I’m still guilty of gesticulating with chopsticks. A lot, For some reason, it’s easier to be expressive with chopsticks than with a fork. I almost feel like one of those acrobatic gymnasts with a ribbon doing a complicated (and no doubt impressive) dance when I’m eating with chopsticks. Sigh. Can’t take me anywhere!


  17. tokyo5 says:

    When I first came to Japan I learned all lessons of proper Japanese etiquette (including chopsticks manners) the hard way!

    Interesting blog!
    Please check mine.


  18. tokyobling says:

    This should be required reading in a the little leaflets they hand out in airplanes before landing at Narita… (^-^)


  19. I got a few wrong… But hey! 80 points! 😀


  20. Valentina says:

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site. I really hope to view the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own site now 😉


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  22. Em says:

    I used chopsticks as hair sticks one day and ended up at a Japanese restaurant, should I never show my face there again? How does one come back from that


  23. Reblogged this on Hey from Japan- or wherever the moving van arrives- Emily Cannell and commented:

    So folks. I`m headed back to Japan in May and as I get back in to the Genki spirit, I`m going through all the cultural do`s and don`ts that will cause my friends to hit the eject button at the table if stick my chopsticks in my bun after lunch.
    In case you failed it the last time, here`s the opportunity to take it again. The Chopstick test. Gambatte!


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