Business Dinner Etiquette in China, Part 2: Proper Seating Arrangement


As with many parts of Chinese etiquette, where you sit at the dinner table will depend on the social context. In business dinners, the most senior person from the host company will sit in the chair that directly faces the door. Then, the primary guest will sit to the host’s right-hand side. The less-senior people will arrange themselves in approximately decreasing rank with the least-senior people closest to the door. The supporting host will sit nearest the door so that they can communicate easily with the wait staff. Here’s a diagram to give you a better idea.

Keep in mind that most business dinners will be held in private rooms. This is much more common in China than in the west, but don’t read into it too much if the dinner is in an open room. Tables for large groups are almost always round, which comes from the tradition of sharing dishes amongst large groups of people. With a round table, a Lazy Susan can be used and everyone can easily access the dishes.



As a guest at these dinners, it is usually best to just observe others and follow their lead. Wait until the host and guest of honor have sat down before taking your seat and sit somewhere between your boss and the door. Similarly, wait for the host or guest of honor to take the first bite and wait for them to stand first before you get up to leave.

Keep these things in mind at your next dinner and things should go smoothly. And in case you missed it, here’s a link to the first article in this series on how to use chopsticks. Though, if you really want to impress your host and build relationships with your Chinese colleagues, you had better learn some Chinese. Read more about our private Chinese lessons or just send us a quick message and we will help you to create a program to learn Chinese!

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