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Have you eaten yet?

September 15th, 2006 at 06:48 pm

Translated into Pinyin (that's Anglosized Mandarin): Ni chi fan le mei yo?

In my not-so-fluent Cantonese, too: Nay sik jo fan mei ah?

I don't know why the question of eating is so prevalant in the Asian culture. Growing up and spending summers in Taiwan, it seemed that everyone was always asking the other person if they'd eaten already. And why not? Eating/sharing drinks is both nurturing and a way to bring groups of friends together to socialize.

Thus, it seems this is an appropriate "first entry" opening discussion- how to answer the eating question when you're on a budget. In Taiwan, you can get a ginormous bowl of delicious noodle soup for about 50 yuan (or less!) which is less than $3. That's the price of a cup of coffee in the good ole US of A.

Interestingly, answers that may seem "okay" or acceptable in the US would be considered rude in Asia. For example, consider the following:

(older person) "Have you eaten yet?"
(you) "No thanks, I'm on a diet."
(older person thinks: What a snob, and what a conversation-killer)

Another scenario:
(friend) "have you eaten yet?"
(you) "No thanks, I just ate."
(friend thinks: she ate without me? or she doesn't want to spend time with me? oh how rejected I feel....)

So what is a good, yet financially sound, solution that will please everyone in every country? Consider the following:

"Not yet, it's only 3PM; why don't we go somewhere first to talk/shop/study?"

"Not yet, why don't you come over and I'll cook for both of us?"

"Not yet; there's a new (re: cheap) place I've been meaning to try, let's go there."

"Not yet; why don't we call up the gang and let's all go out to eat." (the strategy here being, more people to split the cost and/or share dishes)

A little diplomacy goes a long way...for your wallet, too.

3 Responses to “Have you eaten yet?”

  1. Dido Says:

    Welcome! I find the issues you raise interesting--definitely a new insight for me that this would be a prominent issue in Asian culture. I'm Jewish and it's definitely one I associate with my sub-culture where one is always being urged to "Eat! Eat! What? You don't like what I make?" Is there the same kind of guilt involved in the Asian version of this as there is in the Jewish? You mentioned thinking someone was a snob if they said they were on a diet, but would they have their feelings hurt?

  2. Broken Arrow Says:

    Um, welcome to the site.

    Are you Cantonese, or Taiwanese?

    If I remember correctly, the Taiwanese speak only Mandarin or... Taiwanese.

    Only the Southern mainland Chinese speak Cantonese.

    Food is a very important part of the Chinese culture. Why that is, I'm not sure because I'm not well-versed in that field. I only say that because of the different expressions that has culinary allusions in regular conversion. For example, a common insult towards someone whom you perceive as flippant or arrogant is by saying that "they've eaten too much".

  3. miclason Says:
    1158379529 = nurturing in Latin cultures, too!...we use food to show love...and, food is a main component of any major family...well, my mom had a host of eating disorders to top it all of, so we even had special meals for when we were sick (God forbid we would eat hospital food! --mom packed us chicken pate sandwiches and home-made consomme...if you were on a bland diet, she would have a special conversation with your doctor to see what she could bring from home!!!)...the typical question regarding parties or trips was: what did you eat?

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