If you have not yet had the opportunity to experience Chinese drinking culture firsthand, the holidays are a great chance! Even if you are a seasoned drinking pro back home, you may find yourself experiencing a new kind of culture shock. Here is what to expect when alcohol starts flowing.
Chinese Drinking Etiquette
If you are at a gathering where alcohol is present, there are some basic rules you should be aware of:1. Be humble. Don’t brag about your alcohol tolerance. Your drinking partners may put you to the test and you will find yourself, at best, nursing a wicked hangover the next morning. If you are in the company of coworkers or Chinese family members, you do not want to come off as a lightweight either, which may be seen as weak or embarrassing. If anyone asks how much you can drink, a good answer is a lighthearted “We will see”.2. Respect your elders. When clinking glasses, the younger members of a drinking cohort are expected to hold their cups lower than the elder members’ as a sign of respect. This also holds true for seniority in the workplace. It is considered polite if you refill your elders’ cups.3. Don’t drink alone. Drinking in China is a social occasion. Therefore, it is customary to drink as a group, rather than casually sipping at your glass throughout the evening. If you want to have a drink, you can propose a toast to the table!4. Toasts. If you do propose a toast, you are expected to finish your glass. If someone else toasts to you, it is rude to refuse to drink (though in this case you can simply sip).
Types of DrinksBaijiu. This is a category of several traditional Chinese alcohols made of fermented grains. It has a very high alcohol content (generally between 40-60%).Red Wine. Foreign wines are growing in popularity in China, so you may see a few on the table.Beer. There are a variety of Chinese beers available, and even some foreign beers are seeing an increased presence in China.Tea. If for any reason you do not consume alcohol but still wish to participate in the customs of Chinese drinking culture, tea is also an acceptable alternative.
Tips for Surviving the Night1. Pace yourself. Parties can go on for hours and the drinks will keep coming. Be sure to eat and have water in between.2. Pour the tea. If you are feeling the alcohol, you can switch to tea instead.3. Don’t drink. If you say you will “only drink a little”, be prepared to be taunted and laughed at. If you prefer not to get sloppy and skip the potential ridicule, it is better to claim, “I don’t drink” and stay dry for the night.
Chinese Drinking GamesChinese drinking games are very popular and do not require a special occasion. You may find them at the office party, at a family dinner, or even between friends at the late-night chuanr place down the road.Feel free to learn the rules and join in. The games are usually pretty straightforward, but you can still hope for beginner’s luck if it is your first time.
Chinese Drinking Vocabulary
Wǒ jìng nǐ yībēi!
I propose a toast to you!
Wǒ gànle, nǐ suíyì.
I will finish my glass, you do as you please.
(the willingness to keep drinking)
hē duàn piān'er
(the ability to hold your alcohol)
With all this said, please drink responsibly.
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