2006/06/25

Tea and Wine in China

Do you know, here in China, a lot of men say: "you're not a man unless you drink and smoke."
So everytime I go out with friends to eat dinner, I'm obligated to drink because, they always make these toasts. And it's usually not beer they're drinking at the dinner table, it's some Chinese wine that is like 85 proof. They drink it in small thimble cups.

Now I'm not a drinking kind of guy. Heck, I never got drunk in my life before I came to China.
They always force me to drink a lot. They go through 2 bottles of that 85 proof wine at the dinner table. And they drink it straight up, not even diluted with water or ice, or anything.
Well, the end result is, you slowly get drunk, and then poof!! after awhile, you're smashing drunk!!

I have to not sit at the dinner table, so I can be saved from all that drinking, and pretend I'm drunk.

In China, these men say, you're not a man if you don't drink. And these people were talking in Guigang dialect, which is sort of a strange dialect of Cantonese. Anyway, I could understand what they were saying about me. Because they saw I was afraid to drink that wine again (after having my first experience - and one very bad one at that - puked 3 times and was sick for over 3 days).

Basically, they were saying I am like a woman, because I can't drink. Then, I replied in Cantonese: "Right, I'm a woman". My friend started laughing after that. Of course, he was on his way to getting pretty drunk too.

Then, they play all these drinking games too - with dice or with hands. Whoever loses, has to drink up. And that's no fun if you lose all the time. But I'm pretty lucky and I seldom lose, haha.
They serve tea at these dinners, green tea in glasses, or some other tea. I always beg them to use tea for making a toast, but most of the time, they refuse.

The manager came into our private room to meet me. He heard there was a foreigner visiting the restaurant 毛家饭店(Mao Jia Fan Dian - or Mao's Family Restaurant). He also toasted me, and he got really really smashed. He said he was very very happy to meet me. And he drank a lot of wine. Chinese here have a more relaxed outlook on life. Sure your the manager, but you're allowed to get drunk, haha!!

So my conclusion:
Drinking tea: way cool. Drinking wine: very uncool. Why would you want to drink something that smells and tastes like medicine, and will make you very sick for 3 days? Just the smell of that stuff makes me want to vomit.

Bai Ju Yi, famous Tang Dynasty poet also remarked in one of his poems:
聊将茶代酒
"When chatting, let tea represent wine"
I think that's the best advice, even today.

2 comments:

Tom said...

"When chatting, let tea represent wine"

Now that is sound advice. There's many a night I wish I had done that.

Chou Doufu said...

Yeah, I've been through all that. When I was in China, I quit smoking, which I compensated for by drinking more as social events.

To make many social events tolerable, I would:

(1) eat a lot
(2) ONLY drink when toasted (ganbei)

I have a pretty high tolerance, so usually my hosts became sloshed and were passing out or puking while I remained fairly functional.

Tea's great for recovering from alcohol binges, BTW.