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Do’s and Dont’s for drinking in China

By Jesus David Cano Romano
July 22, 2016
drinking in China


So you’ve decided to do business in China? Great! But did you know that drinking takes a huge importance in Chinese business culture?  Read on to find out the do’s and dont’s of drinking at a business dinner.

In China, drinking and friendship have a very positive correlation. It is a matter of courtesy for a host to get his guests drunk. Contrasting to corporate America, where business is often done in the office and sealed with a firm handshake, business in China is usually sealed with a high drinking tolerance and the words ‘gan bei’, the Chinese equivalent of cheers. Below are our top tips for drinking when doing business in China:

• It is common for the person making the toast to stand and hold the drink with both hands whilst saying some words. If you do not intend to drink, make it known at the beginning of the meal to prevent embarrassment. Instead, take a sip of tea or another non-alcoholic beverage as refusing a ‘gan bei’ outright will be seen as very rude and make the person who proposed it lose face.

• After the first group drink, other individuals at the table can then propose their own toasts if they wish. Usually, the most senior person at the table will make their toast first, and everyone else who makes a toast after this should acknowledge the senior diner before they move on to anyone else.

• Although ‘gan bei’ quite literally means ’empty your glass’, there is not necessarily a pressure to drink your whole glass – however, that is expected when someone is making a personal one-to-one toast with someone they share a deep relationship with.

• It is common for banquets to normally be marked by the guests challenging each other to drinking games throughout the evening. However, the most important tip to remember is to not become drunk to the point where you are vomiting or falling down in public, as this entails losing face which is completely unacceptable.

• You also should not shout at someone or stress weak points of others, as this is seen as a form of humiliation which results in the other person losing face. Instead, you should take this opportunity as a chance to gain face by complimenting others or giving credit where credit is due.

Now you have all the information necessary to make the most of your business dinners and successfully conduct business in China!

If you want to hear further information about how to take your business further in China, please contact us at China 2 West.