In both cities, you'll get a strong mix of local and international cuisine. Because Chinese from all over the country flock to Beijing and Shanghai to live and work, the local food scene is varied, whether from the northeast to the southwest and all points in-between. Furthermore, Beijing and Shanghai - as the Middle Kingdom's respective political and financial capitals - are home to hundreds of thousands of expatriates from Asia to Europe to North America and elsewhere, which means an international food scene that beckons.
Exciting food opportunities await you as an intern in China. Here's what you need to know about eating out.
No tipping, no tax. There is absolutely no tipping at a restaurant (or elsewhere) in China. Service staff don't expect one, so you don't have to feel guilty about up and leaving after settling the bill. If you do leave a tip, staff may assume you forget some money and run after you to return it (of course, some would do the opposite).
There's also no tax added to your bill. Your bill should total the exact amount as the items you ordered from the menu. Some restaurants do add a small fee for a chopstick-napkin packet, but that usually never amounts to more than two renminbi per person.
Higher-end restaurants like Ding Tai Fung from Taiwan do add a 15% service charge. The charge is a rarity, and you may not encounter it all during your internship in China. It isn't clear whether this 15% service charge is given to the staff or if it ends up in the pockets of the restaurant's owner.
Generally speaking, eating at a Chinese restaurant won't blow a hole in your wallet. This is especially true if you're a group and split the bill because most dishes ordered will be shared by those at the table (splitting the bill in China is only common among expats and younger Chinese). Western restaurants can be relatively inexpensive simply because there's no tax or tip to worry about.
Service. Do not expect good service at a restaurant in Beijing, although it would be slightly better at more service-oriented Shanghai. Restaurant staff are underpaid and don't receive tips, hence the long face on the waitress who takes your order.
The wait staff at Western, Japanese and Taiwanese restaurants tend to be friendlier and more attentive, but not always. Service is usually good if the waiter speaks English.
Beer is a common drink at Chinese restaurants. Beer comes in either a warm or cold bottle, and you'll get the former if you don't order the latter. For a cold bottle of beer, ask for bing pijiu - ice beer. Ask the waiter to open your beer when it arrives. Say qing dakai - or please open.
Ratings. The Beijing Health Inspection Institute regularly inspects restaurants in the capital to ensure hygiene standards are met. Restaurants are graded an A for a clean kitchen, B for so-so cleanliness, and C for, well ... Restaurants are required to post their grade on a wall inside. The Shanghai Food and Drug Administration is responsible for Shanghai.
Misc. You're in China, so you're going to want to eat Chinese - and we recommend you try as much as you can, weather its Sichuan hotpot or Peking Duck or over-the-bridge-noodles from Yunnan Province. Below are some restaurant suggestions. Head online for more. And if you really want to go local, talk to your new colleagues and Chinese friends. Ask them where they like to eat and tag along.
Websites like the Beijinger and TimeOut Shanghai are good sources for Chinese restaurants. But don't rely solely on these sites since their food focus tends to be Western.
Recommendations. Haidilou (海底捞). Known for its excellent service, this Sichuan-style hotpot is a must-visit. Beijing and Shanghai.
DaDong. Beijing's premier Peking duck restaurant. It's pricey, but worth the visit at least once to say you've been there. Beijing and Shanghai.
Dongbei Ren. A traditional northeast (dongbei) feast. Prices are reasonable. Beijing.