I have lived in China for most of the past six years. Prior to that I traveled around SE Asia and even lived in Vietnam for six months. Before that I used chop ticks occasionally when dining in Japanese, Korean, or Chinese restaurants. I still haven’t mastered them.
I have Asian friends who can debone a sardine with chopsticks. I am forced to eat the whole thing, bones and all. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a meal using chop sticks when a goodly amount of food didn’t end up on my shirt or in my lap.
I like to compare chop sticks to a fork. A fork is used to stab at food. Once impaled, it usually stays there until it is easily removed in one’s mouth. Chopsticks, on the other hand, employ two round, often slick, surfaces to grab a piece of food. Any movement between the grab and the mouth usually means the food falls to the table or the lap.
I was given a beautiful pair of silver chop sticks for my last birthday. They are a bit smaller than run of the mill versions, so it’s easier to grab something because your fingers are closer to the target, giving a little more control and stability.
Eating noodle soup is especially problematic. There you have two round smooth surfaces tying to grab and hold a third round, smooth surface, and all three surfaces are wet. I find it’s best to try to dig one stick deep into the soup and bring it up parallel to the broth. With a little luck a few noodles will be draped over the stick. But then there is the problem of carefully bringing the dripping wet noodles to the mouth. Once to the mouth the noodles must be sucked into the mouth causing the ends to flail about sending drops of soup onto the front of the shirt and dining partners.
To be fair I should mention that I am a complete spaz, uncoordinated and clumsy. Maybe that’s the problem.
The Chinese, and Asians in general, are good at copying the best ideas had by others. I wonder why they haven’t copied western eating utensils.