Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 13, June 18-24

Wining and Dining Out
Chi He Wan Le
Thousands of years of social stratification dictate that physical exertion is something better reserved for athletes and migrant workers.

In the Comrade's Cultural Revolution Red Guard days, there weren't any tiaowuting (discos), yezonghui (nightclubs), or jiuba (bars). The only yule (entertainment) we had was to pidou zibenjia (persecute capitalists). But as the PRC celebrates its golden anniversary, and the Middle Kingdom plods into its sixth millenium of history, never before has more of the West's decadent deportment become common custom among the laobaixing (common folk).

China is a Fazhanzhong guojia (Developing Country), which explains why the most popular recreational activities include xiyan (smoking cigarettes) and staring at foreigners. Other, more strenuous recreational activities are not favored by most Chinese people. Thousands of years of social stratification dictate that physical exertion is something better reserved for yundongyuan (athletes) and mingong (migrant workers).

Most Chinese people can't understand why any grown adult would bother playing sports for the sake of sportsmanship and competition, fun and recreation, or physical fitness. Why on earth would anybody want to exert themselves for any purpose other than shengzhi (procreation) or zhuanqian (making money)?

What's more, most conventional Western recreational activities involve going outdoors, i.e. where the sun is. As a rule, Chinese people don't like the sun because they're afraid to shaihei (get a tan). Dark skin is considered base and dirty in China because nongmin (peasants) are identified by their dark tan, which comes from toiling in the sun all day long.

Luyou (Travel) isn't a viable recreational option for most Chinese people, either. Few members of the People's Republic desire to rove far from their hometown for fear that they won't be able to understand the local fangyan (dialect) or, worse, that they'll be unaccustomed to the local fare and be unable to eat. It is for this very reason that one of the most frequently asked questions of foreigners by Chinese people is Ni chideguan zhongguocai ma? (Are you able to eat Chinese food?).

With sports, outdoor activities, and travel all avoided as potential recreational activities, the only viable option for Chinese people, besides playing majiang, is to grab yitiao xiangyan (a carton of cigarettes) and head out for a night of wining and dining.

Bottoms Up! Ganbei! As far as yangjiu (Western booze) goes, X.O. is the drink of choice. But when it comes to drinking Chinese liquor, Baijiu (Chinese white lightning) is as certain as death and taxes. A veritable potpourri of ingredients including maize, barley, oak, millet, petrochemicals and dung can all be used to make baijiu.

If it is your habit to drink baijiu from 8 oz. glasses, paper or plastic cups or directly from the bottle, then there is no baijiu etiquette for you. But remember that when drinking baijiu out of small shot glasses, there are certain rules you must abide by.

Contrary to popular belief, if you peng (clink) glasses with someone, you don't have to drink everything in your glass. Usually you can drink suiyi (as much as you want), unless someone specifies banbei (half glass) or ganbei (dry glass). And don't forget that when you clink your glass with someone you should always keep the rim of your glass below the rim of their glass as a sign of respect (the Comrade once tore a ligament in a deep knee bend competition with a rival department head).

Always make a small toast or gesture to the other comrades at the table and drink with them, not alone (wait 'til you get home to drink alone). Rather than peng glasses with everyone at the table, you can simply tap your glass on the table before you drink. When your drinking companion's glasses are empty, it is polite to fill their glasses for them, starting with whomever has the most money and on down the line, always pouring for yourself last.

When someone else pours for you, hold your glass up with two hands, one on the bottom of the glass. Originally this was meant to help the pouree keep from dropping his glass in his drunkenness. If you think you're too drunk to hold up your glass even with both hands, just tap your fingers on the table. To signal that you've had enough just outu (vomit) all over yourself (just like former President George Bush) and you won't have to drink anymore, otherwise you'll have to wait until you get to the taxi before you vomit out the window.

Dining jiucan. Dining out itself can often be an all-night experience. Chinese families typically go out to dinner for huoguo (hot pot), eat for five hours straight, and go home. But whatever you do and wherever you go, a night out on the town in China almost always begins and ends with eating. Chinese youth go out for dinner, karaoke and dancing, but wouldn't think of ending the night until they had their mandatory end-of-the-night bowl of doujiang (soybean milk) and youtiao (dough oil stick).

One of the benefits of going out to eat with Chinese people rather than going to their home for a meal is that it is difficult for them to force feed you in a public place. When eating out with Chinese people, just sit wherever they tell you to, but don't start eating or drinking until the host does. No matter how much your host tempts you to eat or drink first, remember that it's a trickÉ insist that he go first or you'll be insulted. Another faux pas to avoid is yu fanshen (turning the fish over), as it is supposed to represent fanchuan (a boat capsizing), but feel free to behead the fish.

Check, please! Jiezhang! Paying the bill is a privilege. If you are the one who extended the invitation, then you are the one paying the bill. Watch your guests so they don't pretend to go to the bathroom but actually secretly pay the bill, stealing the face and the spotlight that is rightfully yours. When paying the bill is your inalienable right, sometimes you must put your foot down. Do not rule out the use of force on particularly obstinate guests who insist on paying.

If you are the guest, offer to pay the bill, but give in when the host insists on paying. You must play the game: act like you want to pay the bill, pretend to actually try to pay it, rise from your seat and dramatically plunge your hand into your pocket. But everyone at the table knows that at the end of the night, only one will pay. The term AA zhi, which means going Dutch, borrows English letters. That's because the very concept is so un-Chinese that they can't even bring themselves to make a fully Chinese word for it.

In the next Comrade Language: Take the Comrade's Chinese Test for Foreigners!

跳舞厅 tiaowuting

夜总会 yezonghui

酒吧 jiuba

娱乐 yule

批斗资本家 pidou zibenjia

老百姓 laobaixing

Fazhanzhong guojia

吸烟 xiyan

运动员 yundongyuan

民工 mingong

生殖 shengzhi

赚钱 zhuanqian

晒黑 shaihei

农民 nongmin

旅游 Luyou

方言 fangyan

Ni chideguan
zhongguocai ma?

麻将 majiang

yitiao xiangyan


洋酒 yangjiu

白酒 baijiu

碰 peng

随意 suiyi

呕吐 outu

就餐 jiucan

火锅 huoguo

豆浆 doujiang

结账 Jiezhang

AA 制 AA zhi

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