Food culture in China vs. Food culture in Germany
When people ask me where I am from, I always need to think for a while to understand what they were asking for. The place I was born and where I spent nearly my whole life until now or the place my parents were born. I normally say: „I´m from Berlin (or „I was born in Berlin“), but my parents come from China.“ But it´s in fact a difficult question for me to answer. Because my roots are also from China. And my parents have been in Germany for such a long time. When I just say: „I´m from Berlin.“, sometimes they ask: „And your roots“?
Last semester I spent the time in Jena and Kahla, which is in east Germany. There I´ve been told many times: „Oh, your German is so good!“ In Berlin I´ve been told this also some times, but not that often. I think the people there are just not used to see people with migration backgrounds that often. I can´t say it´s rude that they say it. Actually it´s a compliment!
Before I get to different food cultures, especially the differences between German and Chinese foodculture, I want to write about the topic foodculture in general and how it leads toward communication. It has happened many times that after people knew where my roots come from they talk about their touch points with that culture. And often it starts with the food topic! There are many chinese restaurants spread in Europe, so the people get in touch with one part of the culture. Of course the food doesn´t taste originally like the food in China, but similar. They say: „I love chinese food!“ and sometimes they can even say some words, like „ni hao“, which means „hello“ in Chinese. I think that food is a good topic to start a conversation and also a good starting point to get to know the culture of a country!
Food is a really big topic in China. While people in Germany or Europe often talk about the weather, chinese people talk about food. I realised that on my trip to china last year. The food topic appeared permanently on the way with my mum and her former classmates. But you don´t need to travel that far to get an idea of the chinese foodculture. Have you realised that in chinese restaurants are always those round tables with a turning glass plate on it? When my parents, chinese family friends and I go for chinese dinner, we always sit around that kind of table. One person takes a look at the menu and orders many different dishes for everyone. After a while the dishes, beside bowls with rice and a teapot appear on the glass plate. Then the people turn the glass plate to take a bit from different dishes. Everybody has a bowl, but it is so small that you normally take a bit from different dishes, eat a bit and take a bit again. Everybody shares the food with each other. People are chatting, eating and drinking together. If you are just four people you don´t need a round table with a turning plate on in of course. But the procedure is similar. The dishes are in the middle of the table and you pick what you want. With your own chopsticks or a shared spoon. At home we also eat chinese food for dinner and we do it the same way. I like the way of sharing food. The process of eating is somehow very interactive, because you also interact with people through interacting with the food.
In a German restaurant, everybody usually orders for himself. You focus more on what you would like to eat. It seems to be more individualistic.
Care through cooking and eating together
I think taking time for cooking something nice for yourself or other people is also a sign of caring for yourself and other people. It makes fun to cook together and it´s also possible to learn something from each other. Especially when you have different cultural backgrounds. It is also a possibility to meet on an eye level. Also when you eat together, you have something to do and have the possibility to start a conversation - maybe about food!