Alcohol Culture In China
Consumption of alcohol and the associated culture has always been reliable barometers of social trends and norms throughout time and space. Indeed, China is hardly an exception. Find below an explanation of the customs and protocols that govern alcoholic beverages in China.
Foreigners may look at China's drinking culture and think it's similar to high school antics. Men of legal drinking age will gladly compete against one another in a drinking game, with the winner being the one who tips over first to the enjoyment of the other players. Anyone who has spent any time in China on a Friday night has likely seen groups of guys carrying a buddy who has passed out. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or any other night of the week. Popular drinking spots also tend to have a lot of vomit lying about.
How to Get Ready
Be careful to load up on carbs before attending any gathering where alcohol will be served, since even a little amount may have a significant impact on how you feel. Every effort will be made to get you to drink more alcohol by challenging you, convincing you, and tricking you. This has nothing to do with someone's citizenship status, and may be motivated by anything from one's gender to one's nationality to one's provinciality to the color of one's shoelaces. It's going to get nasty, so stock up on painkillers and electrolyte pills for the next day.
Consider the Numbers
To achieve respect in Chinese society, it helps to be able to drink heavily. You'll make a great impression at the dinner table if, despite drinking a lot of wine, you maintain your composure, speak clearly, and according to the rules of Chinese drinking etiquette (described below). You shouldn't stress if you don't succeed. Even if you do, you probably won't remember it. Never, ever drink more than you think you can manage, no matter the circumstances. If you pass out in a flowerbed that's covered with vomit, you won't make a good impression.
Facts of the Case
A banquet-style meal is a staple of many Chinese celebrations, festivals, and rituals. One such occasion is celebrating the Spring Festival with the in-laws. In such situation, you'll need more than just good drink holding and toasting skills to succeed.
Another major boozy celebration is the wedding, when everyone (save the bride and groom) may let their guard down and enjoy themselves to the point of báiji drunkenness. As is the case everywhere else, weddings are one of the most memorable occasions one may see. The banquet supper is a true test of one's culinary abilities (and liver capacity).
The toasts at the dinner banquet will go on and on the whole time you're there. The redness spreads over the cheeks of your dinner companions, the Harbin dialect makes less and less sense, the jokes you don't understand become humorous, and you begin to wonder whether this could be the night you finally meet the porcelain god. However, by that time, it will be too late to change your mind.
This sums up the core of the Chinese drinking culture. Welcome.