Dear ladies and gentlemen, social customs are various from area to area. As a foreigner living in China, I found there are lots of differences in the south  and in the north of China. Today, let me share with you my discoveries about  table culture differences.

Sweet vs. Salty

Southerners prefer food with a sweet taste. That is why sugar is an important condiment when they cook.

Northerners prefer salty flavor. They would add condiments like soybean sauce while cooking.

Niángāo vs. Jiǎozi

The Spring Festival is coming. What will the Southerners and the Northerners eat for this big day? 

People eat “niángāo” during the Spring Festival to pray for happiness and fortune in the coming year. “Niángāo” has the same pronunciation with another Chinese word, “niángāo” means “one year is better than previous”.

The tradition is to eat dumplings during the Spring Festival in the North. Dumplings are called “jiǎozi” in Chinese, which also expresses people’s best wishes for a prosperous and rich new year. 

Tāngyuán vs. Yuánxiāo

Southerners often eat “Tāngyuán” on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Tāngyuán is a kind of sweet dumpling made from rice flour, mixed and matched with all kinds fillings (such as nuts, meat, fruit, sugar etc.), symbolizing a happy family reunion.

Northern people always eat “yuánxiāo” on that day. Yuánxiāo is made from flour, with only sweet fillings (such as black sesame seeds or red beans). It defines a happy family reunion.

Rice vs. Noodles

When Southerners are talking about staple food, they mean rice.

Having noodles with a soup can easily warm up the whole body in cold weather, which is why Northerners like noodles a lot.

Small portion vs. Big portion

Southern food usually tends to have small portions, but all with a certain degree of refinement. Actually, Southern cuisines are famous for the various flavours.

Northern food is always served in big portions. The reason could be that people need to take more to protect the body from a cold condition.

Sesame oil vs. Sesame paste

Chinese love hotpot, especially the atmosphere when they are eating it. However, the way they eat hotpot can be very different.

The hotpot in the South is extremely spicy, and the must-have on Southerners’ table is sesame oil. They will tell you to eat food from hotpot with a mixture of chili, oil, soybean souse, etc. 

Generally speaking, Northerners prefer eating with sesame paste when having hotpot. Besides, sauce of leek flower and fermented bean curd are also a good choice to have as condiments.

Food residue vs.  Food container

The underplate is used to place food residues in the South.

Most of the time, the underplate is a kind of food container for Northerners.

Cabbage vs. Green vegetable

When Southerners are talking about vegetables, they mean cabbages.

If a Northerner asks you about vegetables, he/she is actually asking you about cabbage, kale, and almost all other kinds of greens.

Glass vs. Bottle

It is said that Southerners live a more delicate life, which is reflected while drinking: they drink with small glasses.

In comparison, please don’t be surprised when sometimes you find Northerners drink beer/wine directly from the bottle.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, I was very impressed by the differences when I was travelling around China. I’m still on the journey of exploring Chinese culture, hope you could share with me more about southern & northern differences in the comments! Wish you a happy Spring Festival.

What kind of food do you prefer, southern food or northern food? Let us know!