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Wasteful Business Lunches

AlexKMG (2361 posts) • 0

What in Chinese culture changes so that food is ordered to be wasted when one or two businessmen order lunch at a restaurant?

Today I went to order takeout at a restaurant. Yet again, I saw the waitresses dump 3 full dishes and 1 soup into the bucket. One of the dishes was a large fried carp, only a single bite had been taken.

Chinese kids growing up are taught not to waste any food and finish your bowl. Many of those businessmen come from poor backgrounds themselves, and I am sure didn't waste food growing up, or in school, or in their early careers. At banquets for weddings or special occasions, large amounts of food is served, but usually most of it is eaten.

So when do business guys begin to learn the habit of just ordering food for display, rather than to be eaten as food?

Tonyaod (824 posts) • 0

It's all about face, @AlexKMG. Especially at a business function, you want to show your sincerity and wealth but being a gracious host. A business meal in China is not about the food but an opportunity to size each other up. If you are able to afford an extravagant feast then it is a sign that you are an established businessman rather than some rif-raf off the streets, it is also a sign of how you view your guest. An extravagant meal means you are important to them and is a sign of respect.

AlexKMG (2361 posts) • 0

Yeah I kind of assumed it was the face thing. I am more interested in the mechanics of when and how the idea of ordering food becomes twisted that way. Do they learn it from their bosses, the movies, or old sayings in the culture about how imperial lords were to be treated? Does this occur in their late twenties or early thirties? It seems specific to men, is this so?

froggy (11 posts) • 0

not just men, eating in ordinary restaurants in Beijing I've seen tiny skinny women ordering 5 and 6 dishes, and not even finishing half of it, such a waste

tigertiger - moderator (5083 posts) • 0

The culture of giving face through extravagance is probably learnt at home. You see this extravagance at festivals where there is almost no limit on the number of dishes prepared. However, at home the dishes will all be eaten eventually.
Family/friends meals at restaurants can be the same (but not so OTT), and at the end of the meal the DaBao (doggy bag) comes into play.
At business meals it is about face, and you cannot use DaBao.

I guess (could be wrong) that the food is recycled by some very happy pigs. In the past when there were fewer of these meals the staff may well have finished off the food.

Magnifico (1981 posts) • 0

Wait a minute. Didn't westerners invent wastefulness and excess?
I have a pop quiz. how many bathrooms does the mansion of [fill in the blank with name of any rap star] have?

gbtexdoc (218 posts) • 0

I've been taken to long, lavish, and well lubricated lunches in big US cities in days past when someone was trying to curry favor. The wasteful business lunch is certainly not exclusive to China.

AlexKMG (2361 posts) • 0

@GBTEXDOC
Was the food mostly eaten or mostly wasted at those business lunches in the US? I seem to recall you ate at least half the food in the West, unless you were on a diet or not feeling well. And usually you had to make excuses as to why you weren't eating the food, as it looked bad if you let it go to waste or would be interpreted as making the hosts selection of restaurant look poor. That doesn't seem to be the case in China.

I'm not against people spending big dollars for high priced food/drink to impress. I'm just offended by people leaving 98% of the dish uneaten.

tigertiger alluded to that extravagance with food maybe learnt at home. I agree that using an abundance of food to impress is part of most cultures when hosting, but waste of it usually is not. There is way way too much food at most US Thanksgiving family gatherings, but the food's purpose isn't as display, it is to be eaten sooner or later. The dabao being frowned upon for many reasons in China is also a hindrance.

gbtexdoc (218 posts) • 0

No doubt about those business lunches being more wasteful here from what I've seen. A few times I've felt like walking over with an empty bowl and asking if I could please have some. Would they chase off a Western beggar?

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