In case you missed it, I would like to point everyone’s attention to a fantastic article published in The Awl last week: “The East is Drunk: Hammered and Sickled in China” by Abram Dylan. The piece focuses on the social and professional pressures of drinking in China, pressures that even forced a Mormon ambassador to break rank with his faith and ganbei. Dylan also investigates the darker side of ganbei culture, particularly the obstacles it presents to alcoholics. The following is an excerpt:
The reasons for taking every offered shot are complex and many. The situation was best summed up by a 40-something head teacher last year when he told The Guardian, “If I drink, it doesn’t necessarily help me get promoted. But if I don’t, it’s less likely that I will be. So I must drink, even if it’s not pleasant at all,”
This reality is even the official party line. A few years ago, The China Daily, the state’s official English language newspaper, offered some advice to foreigners for success at a Chinese business banquet: “How to refuse a toast?” wondered the paper. “It’s impolite to refuse to drink when a host suggests a toast, as the refusal will make the host lose face, or not feel respected.” Oh, and also: “Sometimes; for instance, being late or having made a mistake (jokingly), you may be ‘punished’ to drink three glasses of alcoholic beverage in succession to show you’re sincerely sorry. This ‘punish toast’ is, of course, just for fun.” Got that? Just for fun.
Required reading. Click here to read the full article.
*And, no, I’m not just saying that because he interviewed me, though that certainly never hurts.