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Chinese Art
Social Observations - Etiquette
Chinese Etiquette - Beer
Drinking Beer

The etiquette for both beer and rice wine is pretty simple, and very important. It is very easy to give offence by appearing to be ignorant. But first you need to order the beer...

Chinese beer normally comes in 640ml bottles, and each one will fill about 3 standard Chinese glasses. The strength is usually around 4%

Notes on Ordering Beer

1. All Chinese tend to order food as soon as they arrive at a restaurant, and staff also expect this. This applies to any place that sells beer and food, except a corner shop
2. Westerners tend to order drinks first, and then think about ordering food. This is a very big cultural difference actually
3. Please note that Chinese can easily spend 20 minutes selecting food, and even longer where you have to go and choose live items
4. I have made it a policy to only order beer initially. After this arrives we can then begin ordering the food.
5. If you order the beer and proceed to order food as well, then you still have to wait until the food order is completed before they go and get the beers - often forgetting this entirely!
6. When you arrive at a restaurant, the very first question they ask you is - How many people at your table. Holding up the correct number of fingers is fine, until you learn the lingo
7. In clubs and Karaoke places, you order small beers by the bucket; 12, 24 etc

Order Beer:
1. Cantonese for beer is 'Bai Zhou', roughly pronounced 'bay d'jow' with a very slight 'd' inflection
2. Mandarin for beer is 'Pea Jew', pronounced as written
3. Migrant waiters may call it 'Be Jew'

4. Place the order by saying:
Cantonese: 'Yut zhee bay d'jow mmm goy'
Mandarin: 'Ee ger pea jew che-che nee''
Yut or Ee means one off. Change this for more bottles. We normally order 3 bottles each time, and often there is an offer on for each three you buy

5. The bottles arrive and may not be opened before the waitress leaves. Say 'hoi d'jow' to get the bottles opened

Drinking Etiquette - Basic

You are the Host in this example:
1. If the glasses are not washed with hot tea, and you do not ask the waitress to do this, then swill a bit of tea around in each glass before using + a bit more on the drinking rim. There is a (Plastic) bowl for this to go into
2. Fill the most honoured guests glass first, and down through the pecking order if you know it? Fill your own glass last of all
3. Before drinking, offer a very simple toast and hold your glass up for show. Cheers is fine
4. When you want a drink, and it is not convenient to offer a more formal toast, just tap your glass on the central rotator (Lazy Susan) once only - or any appropriate piece of ceramic, especially one with a loud 'Ching' sound
5. Never, ever take a drink without doing one of the above - it is extremely ignorant and offensive!
6. When it is time to refill glasses (They are usually quite small), always fill your guests glasses first, and your own last.
7. Keep track of how full the bottles are, and order fresh ahead of time as necessary
8. The only exception is when there is one glassful left in a bottle. Order new 'Cold' bottles, and leave the warm and yuckie stuff for yourself.
9. Between friends and in most normal situations; order the new beers and be ready to grab the remaining bottle and pour into your own glass. Everybody knows this beer is now warm and flat. They also know that by pouring this old beer for yourself, you are honouring them with cold and fresh beer.
10. In this case, do not take a sip until all glasses are replenished!

You are not the host here:
Basically as above except:

1. When your glass is topped up, tap your fingers on the table. In Canton tap your index finger up to four times on the table. This is saying 'Thank you' without using words and saves breaking the flow of conversation. It literally means 'One more please'.
2. Forgetting to do this is mildly offensive, depending upon present company and how long you have been in China
3. If you know China well, forgetting to do this is very offensive!
4. Even when engaged in the deepest conversation, or on the telephone, not tapping gives offence.
5. You are being judged by your awareness of everything going on at table at all times.
6. Not tapping because you are busy, means you are flagrantly ignoring the other people present. This gives great offence!
6. Exceptions: Waiters and waitresses, and between very, very, very good drinking buddies. That's all!

3 Things to Remember:

1. Fill other's glasses before your own
2. Toast or tap the Lazy Susan
3. Tap your fingers when being served


Rice Wine

1. Most Chinese will drink a bottle or two of rice wine at meals
2. Follow the same etiquette as with beer above in general, except:
3. Always toast
3. Always drain rice wine in one go
4. Normal rice wine can be treated just like beer
5. If the bottle says 'Mou Tai', then this is excellent and very expensive. The very cheapest bottles are over $70 USD each!
6. Otherwise a table rice wine costs around $15 USD
7. Hold your glass up afterwards to show it is empty = make a show as the others are doing
8. Rice wine is normally either 33% or 52%. Know which version you are drinking by inspecting the bottle - the different alcohol figures may be the only difference on the label!
9. This drink is unusual, in that it seems to hit your body quicker than Western equivalents, but you also sober up far sooner than normal

Drinking Etiquette - Formal

As above, plus extra rules come in. I will not list them all, because some you do not need to know, other than they exist; and others simply because I do not know them yet!

1. Here beer and rice wine may both be served. If so, treat the rice wine as a formal toasting drink
2. Rice wine may well be the only drink, in which case use as beer above
3. In these situations, it is likely you will be the Guest of Honour. You will probably not be the most important person at the table!
4. On some occasions you may not even be aware who the most important person is, unless you realise what is happening around you?

5. Everyone defers to The Most Important Person
6. He will always finish his drink first - even in a drinking race
7. When not finishing a glass, everyone else's glasses will be more full (Also in pecking order)
8. You will normally not be expected to know this, so drink near to the same as the person with the emptiest glass and never more
9. If you finish a glass during a formal toast when nobody else does, then this is very bad! The Important person + everybody else will therefore have to finish their own glasses - and you have shown complete disrespect!
10 Very Important People during Formal Meals, may on occasions choose someone to drink for them. This is very unusual, and done after the initial toast. If this happens, then you may also choose to do likewise at the same time. Doing this later is very bad!
11. Part glasses are measured in fingers or half a glasses. Half is said in Cantonese as 'Boon' - ie 'yut boon boon' = One half and one other half', or 'mmm sup mmm sup' = 50-50. If you speak Mandarin, then you will know these equivalents already

Drinking Games - Chinese Tricks

Chinese love drinking alcohol, and are normally not very good at it by Western standards. Beware the exceptions!

1. It is normal for you to be sat at table, and with company; when someone will come over with a bottle and top up your glass. This is introduction to drinking fun!
2. You both drain your (Full) glasses
3. Later you should return the compliment in like manner
4. Of course, this inevitably leads to many people becoming embroiled in multi-table 'Toasting'!
5. Especially if you are alone, Chinese will start to suffer sooner, and then start toasting you '1-on-1' in rotation. You get the plan I am sure?
6. Counter this by toasting back soonest, selecting victims appropriately
7. This is always meant in good fun, and can lead to long friendships or drinking acquaintances
8. Don't be stupid. Maybe 1 in every 100, 000 has other intentions. If you feel 'odd', then know you have been drugged. The Landlord will keep you safe from harm, as will your real friends - so call someone immediately!
9. This is usually done with cigarettes by the way, not alcohol
10. This will never happen if you are in company

Drinking Games - Social
We are talking clubs and Karaoke here, but sometimes when entertaining at home or at a local favourite place. It goes like this:

1. You need to learn 'Chinese Dice', which is a drinking game. There are versions, but the main one is detailed below:
2. You each have a shaker and 5 dice
3. You do round-robin betting on the highest number of dice for everyone, which show a certain number
4. If there are 3 people, then start at 4 of a number; so let's say 4 x 4's. Next bet can be either 4 x 5's or 5 x 1's, or higher number.
5. Anyone can call at any time, and you can call more than one person
6. The looser drinks, normally 1/3rd a glass of beer x number of people called
7. Number 1 is special in that it can be any number
8. You can also call only 1's, or no 1's (Some extra rules here, versions)
9. You can change rotation = normally the opposite direction to Western cards
10. You can bet back to the person who bet you
11. You can select a victim
12. These are the brief rules. Call me if you want to practice

Chinese One-Handed Counting
As these places are usually excessively noisy, you need to learn how to bet using one hand only. Counting up to ten using one hand is quite easy, and higher than ten just involves an additional number in the right place

Betting is - So many of this number

It goes like this; and palm is always inwards unless stated
1 = Index finger sideways
2 = Index and middle finger sideways
3 = Index, middle and third finger sideways
4 = Index, middle, third and pinkey sideways
5 = all fingers up, as in a high-5. This may also be chopped into a birds beak. Palm outwards!
6 = Thumb and pinkey extended horizontally, other fingers closed, palm inwards
7 = Thumb horizontal, index down, rest of fingers closed
8a = Thumb and index to side of nose, go down and outwards
8b = As 7 above, but rotate more than 90 degrees, so thumb is passed midday
9 = Make a fist, then raise your index finger slightly
10 = Make a fist
More than 10 = number + ten, as one single movement

To play the game, make only two numbers with your one hand

Note. Number 10 has the chinese character of a + so sometimes people may use this instead - to help you?

1. Chinese 'Party Girls' are very good at this game in 1-on-1 situations, and you will need to be very, very good to beat them
2. Boys are very good with a large number of people, and any number of participants over 3 usually
3. If you are getting hammered - stop for a while. That simple!

I typed a lot here, but hope it actually gives you an insight into Chinese people and sharing beer with them - a most excellent pastime!

Related Pages: Etiquette;   Tea,   Beer,   Table Manners
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. This particular page also contains my personal, unbiased, and apolitical observations. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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