Chinese drinking culture can be divided into 2 categories.
The first is custom business drinking, which is very important, and the other is recreational drinking.
In this post I will write about the business side of drinking, and my next post will be about social drinking – which also takes a big part of the culture!

The business drinking culture (and conduct) is called – ‘jiu wenhua’ / ‘酒文化‘).
It is very common that if you go to a business meeting (dinner), alcohol will be involved – and a lot of it!
There are many reasons – but the nicer one is that according to the tradition, “the more you drink the deeper your friendship will be”.
Having said that, usually when drinking there is less business talk, so you can assume that if the drinking goes well – the business will follow:)

Drinking is a big part of business – that’s a fact.
Because when you take an important customer or a business associate out and show him a good time, he will see that you are not interested solely in his money.
And well, let’s face it, when you are tipsy your social and business barriers get looser – which might help.

  • Tip # 1 – when clinking glasses there are 2 important things to remember.
    – hold the glass in one hand and put the other hand beneath the glass.
    – never mind if you are the leader or just a member: try to keep your glass lower than the other, it shows respect. BUT if you are the leader – don’t go TOO low!
  • Tip # 2 – if the boss is giving a toast honoring you, it is expected that you finish what you have in your glass..! (Bottoms up, did I say that?).

In fact, drinking capabilities are so important for business in China, that some jobs (quite a few) actually list it on their requirements!
Because if you zigzag walking after a few Qingdao beers, your guests will not be too impressed and you might end up embarrassing your bosses and your company.

  • Tip # 3 – Chinese business fests are ongoing, so don’t dive head in to the drinking, pace yourself and save your strength for later! And get your body ready for some Baijui (a very strong drink made out of sorghum, usually around 50% alcohol).

Remember that you are not expected to have the capabilities of a Chinese man – but your host will surely be impressed and even be happy if you show willingness to drink.

  • Tip # 4 (and an important rule) – whether you are a good drinker or not, remember that if you join the drinking, it’s important to not back out. Once you back out it is considered to be ‘diu mianzi’ / ‘丢面子’- lose face.

A word about ‘Ganbei’ / 干杯 – a word you will often hear –  gan means dry and bei means glass – so together it means dry your glass.
Usually when doing ganbei, a small glass is used (luckily), so it is not hard to empty it, but bear in mind it is impolite to not empty your glass.

  • Tip # 5 – if you want to propose a toast – wait for the leaders to finish theirs!
  • Tip # 6 – Try to keep your glass full at all times – otherwise someone will fill it for you and do “ganbei” – and you will be compelled to drink it!
  • Tip # 7 – Women drinkers are not expected to drink as much – hence if a woman decides to partake she will definitely get more points!

To sum it up:
– Be decisive, if you don’t want to drink you don’t have to, but if you do drink, try to follow the tips – and don’t back down.
– Be on top of everything, try not to lose yourself because of the alcohol.
– When you walk out after a long night of drinking, make sure you walk straight;)

Lastly – a personal tip from me – drink a lot of water before going to sleep, that will ease tomorrow’s hangover:)

And of course – have fun and be yourself!

Adam Disatnik

I have been living in China since early 2013 in the great Beijing. I try to travel as much as I can and try to understand the culture and the habits as much as possible. It's amazing how much can be learned about China, and about life, while living abroad in a totally different country than the one you grew up in. I love it! Catch up on my blog to try and understand along with me:) Adam.

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2 Responses

  1. Amir Klein says:

    Adam, I really enjoyed reading your post!

    Thanks for the tips! 😉


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