If you’re traveling to China and drinking with hosts, you’re going to run into baijiu. Here’s how to drink baijiu and what you need to know!
Going to a new country to embrace a totally different culture of eating and drinking can be daunting – especially for novice drinkers. But whilst the Chinese are generally relaxed about drinking and inebriation, they take pride in their heritage and traditions. This is no different when it comes to drinking baijiu. And if you’re not traveling, there are plenty of ways to experience baijiu – see where to buy baijiu here.
What is baijiu?
Baijiu, originating from East Asia, is a colourless liquor commonly consumed in China in restaurants communally. Drinking in China is almost like an art with rules that developed thousands of years ago. So, following certain rules is essential to demonstrating your respect in these social situations.
How to drink baijiu
As mentioned above, there are unspoken rules and social cues in place when it comes to drinking baijiu, so take note of our dos and don’ts. In China, baijiu is a drink consumed neat at room temperature, usually at mealtimes with a series of toasts. Don’t fear its potent taste, though: it’s usually served in shot-sized glasses rather than regular glasses, meaning you’ll only have to endure a taster of what the drink has to offer! With this drink, having a mere mouthful served with spicy Chinese food is highly recommended for the best result.
So, what should you do when drinking baijiu? Drink communally – drinking baijiu is part of a social occasion, and it is deemed impolite to do this alone. Probably the most important thing you can do when receiving this drink is to be a grateful guest. This entails accepting the drink you are given rather than refusing it, as well as downing it all in one shot following the toast. This represents that you have embraced the host’s kind hospitality.
Other guests will notice if you choose to take a small sip, so be mindful of how you are presenting your gratefulness to both the room and the host. Respect is essential in this culture, so accepting baijiu in this way is crucial. Drinks are often filled to the brim to avoid any symbol of being stingy and cheap, so don’t be shocked if your drink is filled right to the top.
Furthermore, be mindful that baijiu comes with a fair share of toasts. Never make a toast before the host. Allow the host to lead the drinking as a kind of ritual – the host will make the first toast, and it will be your job to consume the drink you are given and to enjoy their hospitality, especially if you are the one being toasted! The host will usually make the first one to three toasts. After that, anyone is welcome to make one, although don’t make the mistake of making a bad toast!
Talking further about the host, this person is commonly seated at the head of the round table. If you’re unsure of what this is, know that it is usually the seat in direct line of sight of the door. If you are still not confident of where this is located, wait for the host to seat you. After all, sitting in the host’s head seat would be committing a social sin and would get your night off to a bad start!
How to do baijiu shots
Talking a shot of baijiu after a toast is complemented with a cry of ‘gan bei!’, which means ‘empty the glass’. As mentioned above, you will be expected to empty your glass, although you should never fill it back up yourself unless you have been given your own supply of alcohol. The host will usually conduct the drink pouring unless agreed otherwise. Another rule would be to not stop drinking before the host. The host has bought the baijiu, and so they will call the shots! Don’t be concerned about getting tipsy. In Chinese culture, there isn’t any social stigma attached to drinking and intoxication at a drinking table, and it is the host’s job to manage this. The only job you have is to make sure you’re having a good time!
All in all, the correct way to adapt to this situation in accordance with Chinese culture is quite simple when you get the hang of it. If you’re unconfident of how to drink baijiu, just follow the lead of your host and you should be fine. The most important thing to take away from this is the rule of respect. If you follow this, you’re definitely on your way to correctly drinking baijiu. Refusing a drink would be considered rude, so accepting the host’s hospitality and showing your gratitude to generosity is really important to make a good impression.