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Remnants of a Drunken Night

January 9, 2011
Remnants of a Drunken Night, originally uploaded by timquijano.

Many back at home ask me about the drinking culture here. I don’t love generalizing, but I think most Chinese would agree with what I will say below. Drinking is more or less a male activity, occaisionally partaken in by women (usually in their middle ages). Usually done at restaurants, and sometimes KTV (karaoke), it is commonly some form of a binge drinking game and/or one-upsmanship where the man with the greatest ability to drink the most (酒量), is the manliest. I am often asked what my ability is, to which I laugh and throw out some random number which is very low in Western standards, but very high in Chinese standards.

This is the same night, I saw a couple of guys at one table next to our group, rest their head on the table and vomit onto the ground.

This is also the same night that I was having a couple of beers after having eaten dinner with a Stefanie, a German exchange student at Guangxi University, when a Chinese guy sitting at a table next to us began speaking to us. After a few minutes, we moved our tables together, and they toasted us several times. We exchanged some cultural anecdotes from each of our languages and hometowns (English, German and Chinese). As Stefanie and I were preparing to leave, we hollered to the fuwuyuan (waitress) for the bill, before being stopped by our new Chinese friends, Mr. Lee and company. They were not going to let us pay for anything, including the meal that we had eaten before they even arrived.

UPDATE (13 Jan): I received a text message from a friend that reminded me of a couple other aspects of Chinese drinking practices that I had not mentioned before.  First, the text message:

China is fun because… You get wasted at lunch with your professor

Two things to point out here.  It is acceptable to drink copiously at lunch in China, and drinking is often done  between (male) business partners. During one of my (female) student’s final speaking exam, I asked her what she would like to do after she graduated from university.  She replied that she would like to do business, but she thinks it’s too hard for a business woman to be successful in China. Many business deals are conducted over drunken occasions, but this arena belongs to men, so women are left out. “Perhaps, I’ll try to get a job in the government,” she said, “but it just seems so boring.”

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