We Leave for China Next Week and I Can Barely Use Chopsticks

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in exactly one week from today, my husband and i leave for china! it’s crazy…i can’t believe it’s already here. i’ve been sort of quiet about it because i haven’t had time to process the fact we are traveling another 20+ hours after we just returned from fish sucking on our toes in malaysia and getting on long boats to get to our hotel in thailand less than two months ago but i suppose i better process it now. oh anxiety, you trickster.

we are venturing to beijing, qingdao, shanghai, zhuhai and hong kong for a total of 17 days (if you could see my eyes right now after just counting those days out on my calendar, you would be impressed with how big they are). we do get to do some sight-seeing like the great wall (!) but are mainly there for business.


it’s sort of blowing my mind that my husband and i are traveling to china for business – it sounds like we should be traveling in fancy suits and doing some sort of stock exchange something. instead, since i know nothing about stocks, we shall be doing workshops and trainings instead.

my hubs is a motivational speaker and trainer and he will be keynoting two conferences as well various corporate events and trainings. i will also be doing a workshop talking about finding the harmony between your personal life and career. i am terrified and excited at excited by this opportunity but my word of the year is BOLD so let’s do this!

i found this quote on the side of a building when i went running on saturday and i’m channeling it:

healthy marriage blog quote of dreams

the main reason i’m telling you all this is because i need to reveal something sort of embarrassing: i cannot use chopsticks. 

there, i said it. now everyone knows that any time i try to use chopsticks i basically just spear the food and that is culturally not appropriate when we go over there (thanks etiquette book).

since i do not want to appear like a ridiculous american, i have spent the weekend attempting to learn how to use chopsticks appropriately. you’re welcome, america.

thankfully my husband can use them like a pro so he was very patient with me and i didn’t have to resort to watching youtube videos on the matter.

great news that last night i succeeded in eating all of my pad thai with chopsticks! yes, i realize pad thai is not chinese food but we miss thailand’s pad thai and yes, i add broccoli to the dish because it’s really the only vegetable i sort of like to eat so might as well get that fiber in!

healthy marriage blog chop sticksi also created this cute little harvest area on our table:

healthy marriage blog fall decorationsthis is about to be put away because half of the candy corn and more than half of the m&ms are missing and my husband has only eaten three. i cannot be trusted with open access to candy.

point being…i succeeded in picking up both candies with my new utensils!

healthy marriage blog how to use chop sticksthis was one of my greater senses of accomplishment. boom.

in addition to accomplishing great feats yesterday, my husband and i spent the entire day under the umbrella of celebrating ‘love day’ but more on that later because for now i need to figure out how to eat my cereal with chopsticks so i don’t get hangry.

healthy marriage blog chelsea and ryan avery
1) have you traveled to china before? any tips or things i should know about?
2) more importantly…can you use chopsticks?
3) highlight of your weekend?


  1. Karen

    October 20, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Chelsea, you make me laugh! I learned to use chopsticks when I was in my teens, which means i have been using them for 35+ years now. However, I got really good at using them when I heard that a good diet trick was to eat only what you could eat with chopsticks. Obviously, that was bad advice because all it did was teach me to eat ANYTHING with chopsticks. ANY TIME ANY WHERE.

    I learned this from my Chinese friends: food is important to their culture. It’s why when you go to a Chinese restaurant, all the dishes are served on platters–eating is considered a group activity (not to be done alone). I do know it is impolite to refuse something, so go easy on refusing to eat foods. Respect is very important.

    Be careful saying you like or want to try something because Chinese people will go out of their way to provide whatever your stated desire is. A few of us were invited to the home of a “recently relocated to America” Chinese executive and his family–and had invited a few of us to dinner at their house. My friend’s husband said he wanted to try 100-year old eggs (a delicacy in China). They are buried in the ground for years (not 100) until they ferment and turn black. Well, the host sent for some (very expensive) and presented the 4 of us with two dozen 100-year old eggs at dinner–along with probably a dozen dishes that he had spent two days preparing.

    I punched my friend Phil at the first opportunity and told my son to eat 3 and I ate 4–and Phil’s wife ate 4 and we said Phil had to eat however many it would take to please the host. He did. They were fine–and it was thoughtful of the host to get them for us, but I would prefer never to eat another one.

    If you want an interesting book to read on the plane, try Nicole Mones’ “The Last Chinese Chef.” She wrote ‘Lost in Translation,” which is one of my favorite books ever. Have fun. Chinese people are amazing–and so is their food.

    • chelsea

      October 20, 2014 at 9:52 am

      thanks so much for the insight, karen! i am not going to say i want to eat those 100-year old duck eggs because i don’t think i could eat 4! i am a little nervous about the food since i have the tastebuds of a 6 year old…but i also know how important food is in chinese culture and will do my best to try things provided for me.

      i did notice i ate WAY slower when i was using chopsticks (because half the time the food was falling off) it did make it last longer and i didn’t pig out as quickly.

      thanks also for your recommendations on ‘the last chinese chef,’ i will have to check it out!

      • Karen

        October 20, 2014 at 10:28 am

        You will be happy to know that REAL Chinese food is way better than most of the crap we eat here. I absolutely loathed sweet and sour anything until I tried an actual Chinese style sweet and sour dish. That was delicious…not even close to the gelatinous sweet pink stuff people eat here. One thing I discovered is that in Chinese restaurants in the US, you can request a Chinese style sauce–which isn’t loaded with sugar. You can actually taste the flavors that were intended. Yum!!

        • chelsea

          October 20, 2014 at 6:05 pm

          oh that is also really good to know karen! i’m excited to try it!

    • mallory

      October 20, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      I went to China right after highschool… My biggest surpise was a fish omelette at the hotel. Thought it was just cheese. Read the signs. 🙂

  2. Chen Choon

    October 20, 2014 at 10:23 am

    An interesting fact I thought you might want to know. When you dine in China, they don’t leave any platter empty. If you finished one, it shows you love the food and they will order another one. It is an act of respect to the guest by not leaving any empty plates on the table. Enjoy feasting away.

    Standard greeting in China. “Ni Hao” which means “How are you?”
    I’m sure both Ryan and you will love it there.

    • Karen

      October 20, 2014 at 10:29 am

      That is handy to know. Important tip if there ever was one.

    • chelsea

      October 20, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      thank you for this insight, chen! i did not know about not leaving any platters empty! i suppose i will need my stretch pants 🙂

      thank you also for the standard greeting, i really appreciate that and will share with ravery as well 🙂

  3. Lindsay @ The Wife in Training

    October 20, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Oh my gosh I’m so envious. The Great Wall is incredible, you must make time. Also in Beijing don’t miss Wan Fu Jing market. It’s been a few years, but from what I remember it’s pretty centrally located so getting there should be pretty convenient. LOOK AT YOU, CHOPSTICKS PRO. I couldn’t use chopsticks the first time I went, but I got the hang of it when I got hungry enough. 😉 I wish I could come along in your suitcase. Proud of you and your BOLD, exciting life adventures!!!
    Lindsay @ The Wife in Training recently posted…Happy Birthday Señor Hess

    • chelsea

      October 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      ohhh thanks for the suggestion on ‘wan fu jing market’ lindsay! hopefully we can fit that in too and from our itinerary it looks like we will have a chunk of a day at the the great wall! cannot wait for that and love that you’ve been!

      feel free to send over any other points 🙂 i also must admit that my hand is exhausted from becoming a chopsticks pro but for the sake of all that is respectable…i shall keep it up. sorry there isn’t room in the suitcase because i’m bringing loads of peanut butter and granola bars since i have the tastebuds of a 6 year old!

  4. Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties

    October 20, 2014 at 11:32 am

    WHOA that is so awesome that you guys are going over there! I am absolutely terrible with chop sticks. A few years ago I was at a restaurant and they brought me some chopsticks that were held together at the top with rubber bands (like training wheel chopsticks? haha) and I used those. So embarrassing! Can’t wait to hear all about your triiiiip!!!
    Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties recently posted…Halloween Costumes

  5. Rachel G

    October 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Dude, you’re going to be my next-door neighbors when you’re in Hong Kong! (ShenZhen is on the mainland, but it’s the city on the other side of the border from HK) Chopsticks are a little hard, I won’t lie. I’m still not the grandmaster of them. I think it’s especially hard to be a left-hander when it comes to chopsticks because I’ve never seen anyone else use them left-handed!
    Rachel G recently posted…We Saw the World in a Day

    • chelsea

      October 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      i am totally going to wave to you, rachel!! too bad it’s not a tad closer because i’d love to meet you in the flesh 🙂

      ohhh i never even considered how much harder it would be if i was left-handed! my hand is totally sore from all this practice…is that normal? 🙂
      chelsea recently posted…We Leave for China Next Week and I Can Barely Use Chopsticks

  6. Devra

    October 21, 2014 at 5:07 am

    I love China! I have been there three times. My husband and I actually met in China (we’re both American lol). There are a ton of people and very few Western Toilets, but it’s a beautiful country with a really rich culture. Bargain and bring back some cool stuff! Try the little restaurants that are full of locals because they are the best. And if you buy ice cream bars…. be careful not to get the bean filled ones.
    Devra recently posted…Run Your Own Race

    • chelsea

      October 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      wow that’s amazing you’ve been three times, devra! i am going to stalk your blog for how you and your husband met there-how crazy 🙂

      thanks for the heads up on not having many western toilets (yikes…the holes in the ground make me nervous but i do better at least knowing). and holy smokes i’m so glad you warned me about BEAN ICE CREAM BARS. i do not like beans so that could have ruined ice cream forever for me.

      thanks for your insight!

  7. Stazi

    October 21, 2014 at 6:56 am

    Hi Chelsea! Hope all is well.

    I have never been to China, but I am house sitting right now for a couple who is in hong Kong and then Taiwan amongst other places. Their trip is 20 days total!! What are you guys doing with sugar dog while gone so much?

    I can use chopsticks like a pro, I practiced by just picking up grains of rice when I was eating 🙂

    Highlight of my weekend was being able to spend time with my bear. Since he moved in two months ago i have been home maybe two weeks with all of the house sitting, so the doge came to my house for the weekend! I imagine its similar to you and your Ryan being apart so much, but at least we are in the same city ,most of the time.

    Enjoy your trip, remember to breath and eat all sorts of weird things so I can live vicariously through you!


    • chelsea

      October 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      things are good! wow how fun that you are house sitting for people who are traveling for 20 days! might as well soak it up since it takes forever to get there.

      we sadly (though gratefully) drop sugar off at “camp” with her favorite ‘uncles’ and their dog, lily- a massive american bulldog!

      ohhh grains of rice is a great idea for practice! maybe we’ll have that with our dinner tonight (though bacon and eggs was on the menu but rice goes with everything). glad you got to spend time together this weekend-soaking up that quality time is great!

      i will do my best to sample very small bites of strange things but more importantly take pictures 🙂 it’s going to be wild!
      chelsea recently posted…We Leave for China Next Week and I Can Barely Use Chopsticks

  8. Erin @ Loved and Lived In

    October 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Congrats, Chelsea! That is so awesome that you are going to China on business. I know you are going to rock it. I’ve never been to China, but I’d love to go. I can use chopsticks, but I’d say I’m only average 🙂
    Erin @ Loved and Lived In recently posted…Detox Quinoa Salad

    • chelsea

      October 21, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      thanks erin! working on my workshop now…hoping it all comes together! at least you’re average with your chopstick usage 🙂

  9. Amanda Wood

    October 22, 2014 at 8:40 am

    I’ve never been to China, but I really want to go. Japan too! I am ok at using chopsticks, but I am certainly not a pro. I’m sure they will still offer american eating utensils there, especially in Hong Kong and Beijing. I can’t wait to hear how your workshops go!
    Amanda Wood recently posted…A Book Review… or Two

    • chelsea

      October 22, 2014 at 11:46 am

      ohhh japan is also on my list amanda! i’ll let you know about china 🙂 i’m glad i’m learning to at least pick up some food with chopsticks so i can be respectful and look less foolish!

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  11. Sierra

    October 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    I’ve been to Shanghai and Beijing many times, and Hong Kong once. Hong Kong is very Western – after all, it was a British protectorate for many years. People there spoke excellent English. I had a custom tailored suit make in HK that was amazing, and it was made in only 3 days!

    Beijing – try the Peking duck. (Peking is/was Beijing. Just a different transliteration of the same name.) It’s a traditional dish, great to share, and an easy choice. Shopping there was good, especially if you’re looking at knockoffs. They have an amazing amount of counterfeit merchandise.

    Shanghai – walk Nanjing Rd and along the Bund. Check out Old Town Shanghai to get a trip to the past, architecturally at least.

    China in general – never pay full price, especially at street shops. Even if something has a price tag on it, that’ at most a starting point for the haggling. Generally, I’d ask how much, then counter offer 1/10 of that. If I paid more than 50% of the original asking price, I kinda felt like they “won.” Don’t be afraid to walk away. They won’t let you go. 🙂

    • chelsea

      October 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      sierra! thank you SO much for all of your insight and information around visiting china! you’re amazing. custom amazing suit made in HK in just 3 days?! too bad we are only there for 2.5-dang it! next time 🙂

      i’ve heard about peking duck so i’ll be sure to keep my eye out for that and thanks for the tips in shanghai and also not paying full price for something! i’m so terrible at haggling but maybe this will be a confidence exercise for me!