Learn how to use chopsticks like a native without leaving home

Have you ever gone to an Asian restaurant and wished you could eat properly with chopsticks? Well, now's your chance! The trick is to position your chopsticks correctly in your hand and only move the top one—once you get that down, you'll be using them with ease. Read on to master using chopsticks and also pick up some of the finer points of Asian table manners.

Things You Should Know

  • Hold your chopsticks about a third of the way down from the thicker end.
  • Rest the bottom chopstick on the side of your ring finger and the crook of your thumb.
  • Set the top chopstick directly above the bottom one and hold it with your pointer and middle finger like a pen.
  • Use your thumb as a fulcrum to move the top chopstick up and down to grab food while keeping the bottom chopstick still.
Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

Positioning Chopsticks in Your Hand

  1. The tapered end of the first chopstick rests on the side of your ring finger, while the thicker top is cradled in the crook of your thumb. About a third of the chopstick extends above the crook of your thumb—more than that, and you'll have a hard time controlling your chopsticks to eat.[1]
    • If your chopsticks have a design on the thick end, this can help you figure out how far down to hold them. Just hold the chopstick so that the design ends just above the crook of your thumb.
  2. Rest the second chopstick on top of the first and hold it like a pen. Take your second chopstick and line it up with the first so you're gripping them evenly. The second chopstick rests on the side or pad of your middle finger (whichever is more comfortable for you). The thicker part of the second chopstick also sits in the crook of your thumb, but it's higher up—closer to the first knuckle of your pointer finger.[2]
    • Press your pointer finger on top of the second chopstick, just as you would if you were holding a pen. This is how you'll open and close your chopsticks to grasp food and bring it to your mouth to eat.
    Advertisement
  3. This is one of the most important parts about eating with chopsticks—that first chopstick, the one on the bottom, never moves. Manipulate the second, or top, chopstick up and down to open and close your chopsticks.[3]
    • Practice just closing the tips together to get used to the amount of pressure you need. If the tips cross, you're using too much pressure—easy does it!
  4. Use wooden or bamboo chopsticks until you get the hang of it. Wooden and bamboo chopsticks are sturdy and don't get slippery, which makes them much easier for beginners to use. Once you gain confidence in your ability to handle chopsticks, you can graduate to plastic or stainless steel chopsticks if you want.[4]
    • Japanese chopsticks are typically lacquered, which can make it harder for you to pick up slippery things until you've developed the dexterity to apply the correct pressure.
    • Korean chopsticks are traditionally stainless steel. These chopsticks have the reputation for being the hardest to control, so save them until you really feel comfortable.[5]
  5. Try training chopsticks if you're having a hard time. Training chopsticks are connected at the top so they're easier to control. They're meant for kids, but there's no shame in using them as an adult!
    • If you find using them slightly embarrassing, just save them to practice by yourself at home. Eating snack foods with chopsticks is a good way to build dexterity until you can graduate to "real" ones.
  6. Advertisement
Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

Eating with Chopsticks

  1. Since you're holding this chopstick like you would a pen or pencil, think about drawing a straight line. This is how you open and close your chopsticks.[6]
    • Remember to keep the bottom chopstick still while you're moving the top one. Hold it firmly enough in the crook of your thumb that it won't slide down when you move your other fingers.
  2. Now comes the fun part! Draw an imaginary line upward to open your chopsticks over a piece of food, then draw the imaginary line downward to close your chopsticks around the food. Make sure you've got enough grip to keep hold of the food as you lift it and bring it to your mouth.[7]
    • Start with something about the size of a piece of sushi and gradually move to smaller things as you build your dexterity.
  3. Grip tightly enough that you have control over the food, but not so tightly that you squeeze or crunch it. The specific amount of pressure you need varies depending on the food's density and texture.[8]
    • If you're having a tough time figuring out how much pressure you need, practice with small objects. For example, you might try picking up a cotton ball without squishing it.
  4. Turn your chopsticks to the side and scoop to eat rice. Traditional Asian dishes are served with the idea of eating with chopsticks in mind. But what about the rice? Just turn your wrist so the hand you're holding your chopsticks with is sideways, like it would be if you were going to shake someone's hand. Then, stick your chopsticks under the rice to scoop some up and eat it.[9]
    • Japanese rice, in particular, is usually sticky enough that it will stay in a clump and not fall through the gap in your chopsticks. But it's still a good idea to keep them pretty close together.
  5. Advertisement
Method 3
Method 3 of 3:

Following Chopsticks Etiquette

  1. Tear off the top of the paper to extract your chopsticks (they're called waribashi), then leave the paper flat to the side of your plate. Snap them apart and you're ready to eat. Do not rub them together. If you had cheep, poorly made waribashi, you might rub them together to remove splinters. But when you do it a restaurant, you're telling the restaurant you think their chopsticks are cheap and poor quality, which is definitely an insult.[10]
    • If you do happen to see splinters, pull your chopsticks under the table and rub them discretely. You could also simply put them back in the sleeve and ask for more.
    • When you're done eating, slip your chopsticks back in the paper sleeve so they can be neatly disposed of. If you're taking a break, you can also use the paper sleeve as a chopsticks rest.
  2. Think of the chopsticks as a single unit—you can't use one without the other. As tempting as it might be to stab food with the pointed end of a single chopstick to pick it up and eat it, this is not the way (and you'll definitely get some strange looks).[11]
    • In some Asian cultures, it's considered rude to stir your food with your chopsticks or use them to tear food into smaller pieces.
    • Asian food is prepared with the understanding that it will be eaten with chopsticks, so you're usually not going to have to cut it into smaller pieces.
    • If you do pick up a piece that's bigger than you feel comfortable putting in your mouth at once, you're totally allowed to take multiple bites off of it. Just keep it in your chopsticks the whole time—don't take a bite off of it and then return it to your plate.
  3. It would be considered rude to point at someone with your knife or fork, and it's the same with chopsticks. Generally, refrain from doing anything with your chopsticks other than eating food. If you're between courses or not eating, set them down on the chopsticks rest or on your napkin beside your plate so you won't be tempted to fiddle with them.[12]
  4. You don't want your chopsticks to drip, so wipe them off before you set them down on the chopsticks rest. Don't lick or suck them to get the liquid off—that's considered a bit gross.[13]
    • Chopsticks are intended to elegantly convey food to your mouth. You'll seem more refined if your chopsticks touch your actual mouth as little as possible.
  5. Family-style dining is common in many Asian cultures. Each person at your table will have a small plate in front of them, then the food will be served on large platters in the middle of the table for everyone to eat off of. Use the larger serving chopsticks to take the food off the platter and put it on your personal plate. Then, use your personal chopsticks to eat the food.[14]
    • If you find serving chopsticks difficult to work with because of their size, work around it. Just wait until someone else is getting something, then hold up your plate so they can get you some as well.
    • If you don't have serving chopsticks, Hong Kong and Cantonese etiquette allow you to turn your personal chopsticks backward to get food from communal plates. Since that end hasn't been in your mouth, it's considered more sanitary.[15]
    • Don't transfer food with your chopsticks to someone else's chopsticks. This is reminiscent of a funeral rite, so it's a bad omen to do it at the table while eating.[16]
  6. This is basically the same signal you give if you lay your knife and fork across your plate. People will assume you're completely done eating and, if you're at a restaurant, the server will likely take away your plate.[17]
    • If you're between courses or taking a break, use the chopsticks rest or place your chopsticks beside your plate or just along the edge. That way, no one will assume you're done.
    • Don't leave your chopsticks standing straight up in a bowl of rice, either—especially not in Japan! This is a funeral ritual, and anything that invokes death or funerals is considered bad luck and is a big no-no.[18]
  7. Advertisement

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Where can I get chopsticks?
    Caeiia
    Caeiia
    Top Answerer
    Asian markets carry cheap ones that can look beautiful, and online stores carry them.
  • Question
    When I use chopsticks, the food keeps slipping out. Is it me or the food?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Certain foods are more difficult to eat with chopsticks than others. Things like noodles, rice, etc., will require you to scoop the food out, rather than "pinch" the food out. Keeping the narrow tips together will allow you to scoop the food in a similar fashion to a spoon. Keep practicing, you'll get there.
  • Question
    How do I find a place to buy chopsticks?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Most Asian markets have them, and you should be able to find them online. If you're lucky, they may show up at a local flea market or thrift shop (though this is rare). Another option is to eat at an Asian restaurant, and then take a pair home with you; these are normally disposable, but they can last awhile if they're good quality and you take care of them.
Advertisement

About This Article

Thuong Tan
Co-authored by:
Noodle Expert
This article was co-authored by Thuong Tan and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD. Thuong Tan is a Noodle Expert and the Founder of Noodelist, a food startup producing plant-based instant noodles. Thuong holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and Marketing from Haaga-Helia, University of Applied Sciences, and an MBA in Luxury Brand Management from IFA Paris, Polimoda/Shanghai University. Noodelist’s mission is to produce premium plant-based moroheiya noodles that are nutrient-dense, texturally pleasing, and environmentally friendly. This article has been viewed 620,851 times.
14 votes - 63%
Co-authors: 13
Updated: January 16, 2023
Views: 620,851
Article SummaryX

To hold chopsticks, start by holding one of the chopsticks like you would a pencil, with your fingers about one-third of the way up from the narrow end. Then, take the second chopstick and rest it on your ring finger so it's lined up with the first one. When you want to open the chopsticks to pick something up, press your middle finger between them. When you're ready to close the chopsticks, use your index finger to push them together.

Did this summary help you?
Advertisement