have hosted Americans in the past will understand you do not appreciate such dishes as much as they do. It is correct to use a toothpick (covering your mouth with a hand) after dinner, but not to fiddle with your chopsticks (which are supposed to rest, together, at the edge of your plate). Your hosts will use their serving chopsticks to place food on your plate, which you should refuse, cheerfully insisting that you can help yourself, after the first couple of times.
You can expect a great deal of bantering and good will at a welcoming banquet. Your host will signal when the meal is over by standing up and wishing you good-bye. There is little lingering after the meal, and inexperienced Americans often find the evening ending abruptly and early.
If you have any dietary restrictions, especially if you do not eat pork or seafood or are a vegetarian, it is best to inform your hosts in advance. Banquet dishes are heavy on meat and fish, and you may wait in vain for the vegetables. Anyone with allergies to nuts should know that peanut and sesame oils are commonly used in cooking. Your hosts could lose face if you do not eat, and most hosts are happy to accommodate your requests.
Researchers whose work takes them to several sites will invariably be treated to a welcoming banquet at each one, even if the visit is only for a day. Many researchers agree with the assessment of one who found "this way of doing research stultifying and lifeless, not to mention emotionally and physically draining. . . . And yet, this is the form which governs the Chinese model of the research trip. . . . The banquet, despite its highly ritualized form, does lead to a more relaxed atmosphere in which a more genuine connection can be made. Dour officials, reciting facts from memory, unwind to become genial hosts who are quite happy to make unofficial asides on what they just spent most of the morning dishing out to the visitor."
A return banquet at the end of your stay is the best way to express appreciation. To ensure that you depart with warm feelings and a good impression, ask a Chinese friend or assistant to help plan the event. Your favorite restaurant may not be the favorite of your Chinese hosts or the most ritually correct place to hold your farewell dinner.
The cost of your banquet will vary according to where you are (countryside, town, or big city), your status, and the status of those you are hosting. Students hosting their teacher at a local restaurant will pay far less than a senior professor hosting high-status guests. It is possible to find good restaurants charging Y50 per person, but the price will be considerably higher for a high-status banquet. One senior researcher recently paid $1,000 to host the high-ranking officials he had interviewed. Student researchers at smaller institutions may look into banquet facilities at the institute—they may be much cheaper than outside