I have a question about etiquette at Chinese restaurants that use a lazy susan in the center of the table.
For Mother’s Day, my sister and her husband invited family members to celebrate the occasion at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. There were a total of 12 of us seated at a large round table. at 12 o’clock and going clockwise, the seating was as follows: (this will be important later on). My brother in law, my sister, my father, my brother-in-law, my other sister, a 10 year old niece, myself, my aunt, my mother, a teenage niece, another teenage niece, and my 9 year old nephew. My sister and brother-in-law who hosted ordered 10 or 12 dishes. There was more than plenty of food for everyone. The restaurant served all the dishes pretty much at the same time, onto a lazy susan, which was centered in the middle of the round table.
As is customary, we each served ourselves a small portion, being careful not to move the lazy susan only until someone was finished serving themselves. So here is where the problem started. The lazy susan was being moved counter clockwise (yes, I am aware that the custom is clockwise, but my family beats to its own drum sometimes), and I would see my mom serve herself, then my aunt who was next to my mom. Since I was seated next to my aunt, I would obviously be next. However, my sister who was seated on the opposite side of my niece, who was to the right of next to me, kept reaching over me, just after my aunt finished serving herself, and taking the serving spoons from the dish in front of me, and serving my 10 year old niece, then serving herself, and then moving the lazy susan, back to me, finally allowing me to serve myself. When I was done, the lazy susan would skip along past my sister, who already served herself. Essentially the lazy susan would rotate to each person, my sister would jump the line in front of me, and once she was done serving her child and herself, she would either move the food back to me, or I would wait another full rotation until the dish was in front of me again. This happened over several rotations, before I finally called foul, and said something along the lines of, “Hey, the food will rotate to you, please just wait.” She got very angry at me, and told me the children should be served first, and her 10 year old daughter (my niece, who I love!), needed help, and of course I was being unreasonable and selfish, how dare I serve myself before the children.
We are a Chinese family, so it’s not like we have never used a lazy susan ever before. I don’t have any children, nor am I married, so my sister tried to further prove her point by pointing out that she is taking care of her children. Again, so obvious, and how could I not see this, except for the fact that I had no children of my own, and could not grasp this concept. Please help put this in perspective for me. What is the correct etiquette here? I feel that my sister not only displayed terrible table manners, but she is teaching my 10 year old niece bad table manners by allowing her to have a “me first” attitude, and not being accountable to customary manners that guide the entire table. Was I so wrong to put a halt to the herky jerky motions of the lazy susan my sister created? I tried not to ruin the dinner for everyone as the spat escalated, so I pretty much just stopped talking, and seethed inside.
(I also want to mention that my sister generally has decent manners, and her children usually say please and thank you, and are polite. Also, my other sister did not commandeer the lazy susan for her 9 year old son.) 0512-14
So you are at 6 o’clock position, niece is at 5 and sister is at 4 and the lazy susan is moving counter clockwise. Your sister is reaching across her daughter to get to the food in front of you instead of waiting for the lazy susan to rotate to be in front of her daughter which what I would have expected to be done. It’s fine for her to serve her child before herself and to do so when the food choices rotate into a position that corresponds to their seating location. But had you considered that by her moving the lazy susan two spaces back and forth, it is actually imposing on everyone else at the table? It’s not just skipping you, that particularly dish at a specific position on the lazy susan is skipping others as well. I don’t think your sister was specifically being rude to you and I suspect the rest of the family was inconvenienced by the erratic movement of the lazy susan but chose to just grin and bear it.