Chinavia Toolkit
Food festival at the ZOO in Copenhagen

China-Ready Advice for Restaurants

Photo: Morten Svane

If you have Chinese customers, you have probably noticed that they do things differently and have other expectations than Scandinavian guests.

On this page, you will find a list of suggestions, tips, and explanations about cultural differences and special preferences. 


  • Offer complimentary hot water or tea. The older generation believes that cold water is bad for your health and that the body should not waste precious energy to heat the water that you drink.
  • Many Chinese also prefer other warm drinks than tea and water. Warm orange juice or a warm beer is not uncommon to drink in China. Ask whether they would like chilled or (luke) warm drinks.
  • When serving tea to Chinese, be aware that many Western black teas are too strong for Chinese palates. Chamomile tea is recommended as a local replacement if you can’t find Chinese green tea. Chamomile is a specialty of Northern Europe (which is a good story in itself) and quite bland compared to black tea. 
  • If Chinese customers order a cold drink, ask if it should be served with ice cubes or not, since many prefer not to have ice. 
  • If the Chinese drink alcohol for their dinner, they usually only do so while eating. Once finished eating, the drinking stops as well. 


  • The Chinese often share all dishes with each other instead of each ordering their own. 
  • If the want to share the dishes, put them in the middle of the table and provide the guests with smaller, individual plates. 
  • The Chinese prefer to taste many different things during a meal, so if dishes are to be shared, suggest dishes with different types of meat and vegetables for a greater variety. 
  • In Scandinavia, we are quite particular about the order in which we serve the dishes. This order, however, does not make much sense to the Chinese. They don’t mind beginning the meal with a piece of cake followed by cured salmon. You can choose to adapt to their way of eating or tell them a story about why we do as we do. For many individual travelers, having an authentic experience is an important part of traveling, and your story and time will be much appreciated. 
  • Be careful when adding salt to the dishes. In Scandinavia, we eat fairly salty food, but most Chinese prefer it less salty. 
  • Many Chinese are lactose intolerant, hence, sauces heavy on cream or other dairy products are best to be avoided. 
  • Serve with both hands when possible. Handling dishes, bowls, etc. with two hands is a sign of respect. 


  • Try to identify the natural leader of the group of guests and if possible, take all orders through this person. This rule applies regardless if it is a group of family members or a tour group. 
  • Be especially attentive to older and younger generations. Do they need a children’s chair? Maybe a pillow for an older family member would be appreciated? 
  • The Chinese (and many other nationalities nowadays) love taking pictures of beautiful food. Make sure your dishes look great and are ready to be photographed. The pictures will most likely be shared on social media.
  • Suggest your Chinese guests to share their culinary experience with their friends online - perhaps in exchange for a free cup of coffee/tea or another incentive. 


  • Let all contact with the tour group go through the tour leader.
  • Let the tour leader know where the toilets are. 
  • When receiving tour groups, accept that they are busy and eat fast. 
  • If hierarchy within the group is obvious, try to serve in order of importance. According to Confucian thought, men come before women and old before young.


  • If you are experiencing problems when communicating with your Chinese guests, there are apps that can help you out. See our app suggestions below for more details.
  • Are you interested in more China-ready information? Then take our free online course, where you will learn about China, the Chinese outbound market, Chinese traveler behavior, cultural differences and Chinese social media channels, apps and payment solutions. Click the course box below.