Communicating at a Chinese Restaurant

Ordering at a Chinese restaurant without words and how to make wonton soup.




After my 84 year old mother, my son John and myself attended the church service in China, we were hungry and found a small insignificant place to eat.

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It was a delightful "mom & pop" sort of place with smiling staff and friendly service. The only trouble was....nobody in the whole place knew a stitch of English and our Chinese consisted of "Hello", "Yes", "No" & "Thank you"....not enough vocabulary to place a lunch order at a non-English speaking Chinese restaurant.

At first, we all laughed. Humor, that's always a good starting place, so at least we were connected!

We considered politely getting up, saying thank you and leaving, but they had won our hearts. After all, they were so kind, happy and glad to have us there. We just couldn't bring ourselves to disappoint them in this way.

So, the creative staff got a paper and pen and started drawing pictographs. First they drew a fish which we could clearly recognize. Yes, I would take fish, but John and mom passed on the fish. Then a simple duck was drawn. Yes, Mom would take duck. Peking duck was famous, everyone should try it if in Beijing (former Peking), right? I forget what John chose, but then they drew some tiny, tiny oval shapes....lots of them. What in the world are they, we all wondered. Could they mean rice? Ah, yes, perhaps...so, certainly, we all needed rice.

And so, without words, our lunch was ordered and we waited happily chatting and laughing over our first adventure of ordering via pictographs.

Soon the food arrived and looked wonderful. The only trouble was, my mother had never used chop sticks and could not manage in any way, shape or form to maneuver the rice and pieces of duck to her mouth. This was a real dilemma indeed, especially if one is really hungry and the food is merely sitting there in front of you and not able to reach one's mouth in a respectable manner.

They sensed my mother's problem as they hoovered over us making sure all was well. We motioned for a fork. Heads were shook, no, no forks here. To solve the problem, they brought out a spear! Ah, yes, this would do fine at least for the duck. The rice would have to sit there quietly being not eaten by mom. But she was happy to at least eat the pieces of duck without getting her fingers all greasy with duck fat which was heavy on the underside of the skin.

On the plane home, mom poked me in the ribs with a giggle as she sheepishly pulled out a plastic spoon, knife and fork in a little packet that had laid forgotten in her purse the entire trip....even while at the Chinese restaurant where she so badly needed their services.

How to make wonton soup. This video gives you foolproof steps at making a tasty authentic wonton soup.

Go to main China page after Chinese restaurant.

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