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Have you ever visited an Asian restaurant and wondered about the traditions surrounding chopsticks? Chopsticks are a great way to eat your food quickly and conveniently. Studies have shown that using chopsticks can have some added benefits, such as improving memory and increasing manual dexterity. There are many different types of chopsticks, from the Japanese wari-bashi (disposable chopsticks) to different styles of chopsticks used for cooking, eating and picking up cakes and other sweets. Although they are a great way to eat your meals, to the uninitiated chopstick user, they may be a bit tricky to use at first. 

The proper way to use chopsticks is to hold the two pieces parallel to each other in the web between your thumb and forefinger on your fork hand. Rest the chopstick that is closest to your body on the first joint of your ring finger and keep it immobile. Hold the other chopstick with your forefinger and middle finger, and manipulate them to pick up your food as if they were pincers. 

Once you have a bit of practice with chopsticks, youíll find their use simple, natural and easy. Chopstick use allows much more nimbleness and precision than a fork or knife could ever offer. There are, however, a number of etiquette rules when it comes to dining with chopsticks: 

-         When your chopsticks are not in use, you should lay them down with their ends pointed to your left.

-         Do not stick your chopsticks into your food and leave them standing up. In Asian funerals, chopsticks are left standing in balls of rice that are placed on the altar of the deceased.

-         Do not pass your food from your chopsticks directly to another personís chopsticks. Once again, this is also a funeral custom, where the bones of the cremated are passed from one family member to the next in this manner.

-         Do not lick your chopsticks.

-         Do not use your chopsticks to point at objects, whether it is food, the table, etc.

-         Do not wave your chopsticks through the air or play with them.

-         Do not use your chopsticks to push or pull bowls or plates around on the table.

-         Never cross your chopsticks except if you are at a Dim Sum restaurant. It is acceptable to cross your chopsticks on the table here because it indicates to your server that you have finished your meal and are ready to pay. Sometimes, your server will cross them for you, to indicate you have paid your bill already.

-         If you have already used your chopsticks for eating, and you want to move food from a shared plate to your own plate, turn them around and use the opposite end to get the food. 

Chopsticks are a practical and fun way to eat. Chopstick use has been compared to Asian brush painting and writing Chinese characters, as the movements and hand disciplines are similar. Once you have practiced a bit, youíll be using chopsticks naturally and fluidly.  Bon appetite!

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