Often, when Germans and Chinese sit down to a German meal, they bring a taste of their cultures to the table.
"Dinners together are a good opportunity for cultural exchange," said German Tobias Galts, who is both a German-language instructor and a Chinese-language student at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. "Chinese people are really interested in meeting German people," the 22-year-old added.
German restaurateur Steffen Schindler, owner of Schindler's Tankstelle and Schindler's Anlegestelle in Beijing, said the Chinese who come to his establishment are often swept up in the German "pub tradition".
"People who are strangers - Chinese and Germans - meet in our restaurant and start talking to each other, saying whatever they feel; that is an old German tradition," he said.
"They talk about football, about environmental protection, about cars; they talk about everything."
He said that while they don't always agree during these discussions, they are "respectful" of the others' points of view.
Beijinger Li Chenguang, who dines at German restaurants a few times a year, said that the Germans he met defied his expectations.
"Talking to them over dinner, I found that although many people believe Germans are serious, they're actually really funny," the 33-year-old said. "A lot of them are actually funnier than I am."
Michael Paingt, manager of South German Bakery, Caf Konstanz and Bodenseestube Restaurant, believed that, dinner conversation aside, the cuisine itself says something about the German people.
"Chinese people learn that the German food is a little heavy because of the work we did in the olden times, and because it's colder there, people eat more calories," Paingt said.
Mary Zhang, 28, said she likes German food, because she believes it resembles the food of her hometown in Inner Mongolia.
"I especially like pig's knuckle, because it's like roast sheep's leg," she said.
While German food has had a foothold in China since concession times, it's only in the last decade that the cuisine has really flourished in its metropolises.
There are seven German restaurants in Beijing and eight in Shanghai, while Guangzhou's popular expatriate weekend magazine, That's PRD, lists one in Guangdong's capital city.
German Hans Voll, owner of Die Kochmtzen, said that when he first opened the restaurant, most of the customers were foreigners.
"But now, it's about 70 percent Chinese and 30 percent foreigners," Voll said. "And I see many Chinese guests coming back."
According to Paingt, the growing popularity of the cuisine among Chinese seems to be from a combination of word-of-mouth marketing and curiosity.
"Chinese customers ask everything; they ask what's inside, what's the dough made out of, because they don't know much about it," he said.
"Western food for many Chinese is KFC, McDonald's or Pizza Hut, because those places have built good brand names," he said. "For the kind of food I'm doing here, new Chinese customers need to be educated."
But China's gastronomes are becoming more familiar with the cuisine, and today, demand for German food in China is rising.
According to the latest report by the Federation of German Food and Drink Industry, dairy products, processed fruits and cheese topped the list of foodstuffs Germany exported to China last year.
From 2005 to 2006, dairy product exports to China increased 256 percent; processed fruits, 242 percent; and cheese, 126 percent.
"You'll see more and more German restaurants and food in China," Voll said. "Because China is changing every day."
(China Daily August 28, 2007)