The do’s and don’ts of proper dim sum etiquette

Thursday, February 7th, 2013. Filed under: Food & Dining Lunar New Year Table Manners Around the World
Dim sum etiquette calls for showing your appreciation with a few finger taps and pouring tea for others first. ©Hywit Dimyadi/

Dim sum etiquette calls for showing your appreciation with a few finger taps and pouring tea for others first.
©Hywit Dimyadi/

(Relaxnews) – While there’s no art to enjoying an authentic dim sum meal, there are a few do’s and don’ts that diners should be aware of before they tuck into the Chinese version of a tapas brunch.

With the Lunar New Year rounding the corner, Chinese restaurants around the world are poised to be filled to the rafters with diners looking to celebrate with good authentic eats, including dim sum, or yum cha (“drink tea”) in Chinese.

To help newbies and veterans alike get their tea pot refilled without saying a word and look like a dim sum pro, here are a few tips on how to navigate the flow of carts and the cacophony of sounds that accompany any good yum cha experience.


When someone serves you tea, show your appreciation by tapping your index and middle finger on the table twice if you’re married, and just your index finger if you’re single, a gesture said to mimic the act of bowing.

Turn over the lid and leave it on the teapot if you want a refill.

Feel free to get a dessert dish in the middle of the meal. There are no set rules for mixing sweets with savory items during dim sum.

Leave a tip. Just because the waiters are coming by with carts doesn’t mean it’s no less a service. It’s common for Chinese restaurants to split tips amongst the servers.


Serve yourself tea first. Always pour your companion’s cup first. Otherwise you brand yourself as an uncouth Neanderthal.

Flag down just any waiter when you need something. Servers are assigned to tables so make sure you take note of the person who is taking care of you.

Be selfish. If there are three dumplings on a dish and there are five of you at the table, cut a dumpling in half so you don’t short a diner a dumpling.

Rush the cart ladies. Exercise patience and let them come to you with the goodie-laden trolleys, that’s the whole point of the yum cha experience. Swarming them will only get you on their bad side. And you don’t want to anger the ‘dim sum’ lady.

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