which one to choose: chopsticks or western utensils?
I will help you put your worries aside in this thread.
All Chinese restaurants will give you chopsticks, but, the ones that have English menus can supply forks and knives if asked for. The smaller and real Chinese ones don’t have the forks and knives, while some will offer you forks and knives even if you don’t ask as they assume that foreigners can generally not use chopsticks. Besides, at most restaurants you will get a small cup and a spoon, so that you can use chopsticks in combination with the spoon.
If you really could not challenge the chopsticks, here is a way: carrying some plastic ones just in case. Some of my friends carried 100 disposable plastic forks on their China tour, and you can also buy them at most supermarkets in Beijing, such as, Carrefour, Wal-Mart, etc.
I will present you some easy ways to use the chopsticks.
Chopsticks are the main eating utensil in China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, & Vietnam. Korea is the only one of these chopstick nations that use sleek and thin metal chopsticks. The other four countries use wooden chopsticks that vary in length and thickness. Watching others using chopsticks can make it look so easy, but when you try it, you end up asking for a fork. Here’s how to say goodbye to that fork for good and put those chopsticks to work!
Pick up the first chopstick with the middle finger and thumb. Stiffen your hand for a firm grip. Have the broad end of the chopstick lay on the part where your thumb and index finger connect. Rest the narrow end on the tip of your ring finger, and hold it in place with the tip of your middle finger. (Hint: try holding it the way you hold a pen to write. It might rest on your ring finger or your middle finger, held in place by your index finger. Place the chopstick then lift your index finger so it can hold the second chopstick.)
Grip the second chopstick with your index finger. Place your thumb over the second chopstick. Adjust your grip to a more comfortable position. Make sure the narrow tips of the chopsticks are even with each other to help prevent them from crossing or being unable to “pinch” the food.
Hold it steady. This chopstick should not move when you attempt to pick up food. Alternatively, hold the first chopstick steady and move the second (top) chopstick by moving the tip of your index finger up and down while the thumb remains relatively steady, acting like a pivot point. The top chopstick remains pressed to the index finger from the tip through the first joint. The movement comes from flexing the joint closest to the knuckle. Straightening your index finger opens the chopsticks and bending it closes them, with perhaps a slight flexing of the thumb to keep the chopsticks lined up with each other. (Note: this alternative is different from the photos in how the top chopstick is held. The movement comes from the top chopstick, not the bottom one, so the top chopstick is held so that it can be moved easily. Use the method that is comfortable for you.)
Practice opening and closing the chopsticks. Make sure the broad ends of the chopsticks do not make an “X” as this will make it difficult to pick up food.
Pick up food at a good angle (try roughly 45 degrees from the plate); slightly lift it up. If it feels unstable, put it down and try again.