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Doing Business in China: Rules and common practices for drinking when dining in China

By Jesus David Cano Romano
November 16, 2015
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Drinking takes an important place in Chinese banquets. Toasting is mandatory and the drinking of spirits commences only after the host has made a toast at the beginning of the meal.

It is a matter of courtesy for the host to get his guests drunk. If you do not intend to drink alcohol, make it known at the very beginning of the meal to prevent embarrassment.

Below we enlist a series of tips and common practices for drinking when Doing Business in China.

Common practices

• When making a toast its likely to stand and hold the glass with both hands while saying some words.

•When the host make a toast normally will say the words ”gan bei”, which means bottoms up, all presents should drain their glasses.

• After the first toast is completed, drinking and toasting is opened for all the rest of the members of the table, subsequent toasts can be made from person to person or to the group as a whole.

• No words are needed in these toasts and is not necessary to drain your glass, although is more respectful.

• Hard liquor shall never be drunk alone. If thirsty can sip beer or a soft drink.

• It is impolite to refill your drink without filling first everyone else’s glass.

• The host will normal make sure that all drinks are full.

• When doing a toast is important to observe that younger members should clink the edge of their drink below the edge of an elder to show respect.

What is Drunk?

It it not unusual for some Chinese to become quite drunk, although vomiting or falling down in public entails loss of face, which is unacceptable.

The worst thing you can possibly do to Chinese people is to let them lose face by humiliating or somehow embarrass them in public. Also you shouldn’t scream at someone or stress weak points or mistakes in front of others.

On the other hand you can even make someone gain face by compliments or appreciating and giving credit whenever necessary. Grab those opportunities as often as possible, your Chinese acquaintance will be thankful.

It is important to mention that the banquet will normally be marked by the guests challenging each other to drinking games throughout the evening.