Gan Bei (干杯）is a Chinese toast literally translated as “Bottoms up!”. For those who have spent some time in China this expression is familiar because of the alcohol drinking importance in local social intercourses. It even gave birth to a Chinglish word “ganbeiing” which means “drinking lots of alcohol in company”.
No business can be finalized in China without sitting around the table and drinking, drinking, drinking… This controversial habit is rooted so deeply that even latest tragic events when officials died during banquets would hardly change anything about it in a foreseeable future.
However, my blog is not about business or politics – it is about Chinese girls, and I want to let you know the unwritten laws that apply to parties “decorated” with the presence of Chinese girls.
I guess it’s not unique to China that during banquets people want to join the festive mood of a party without getting completely drunk. But it is not easy to keep the right pace (especially if you are a foreign guy and everybody wants to “ganbei” with you).
Thus, it is important to know some rituals and their implications to men and women.
First of all, those who are late to the party have to drink extra beers as a “punishment”. For men apologies are vain. It’s better to show the sincere regret and drink 3 glasses of beer without redundant explanations.
But if girl is late and guy says something like – “Hey, beautiful*, you are so late, we are waiting for you until flowers fade away. Please drink 3 glasses of beer now.”
It would invite a girl to grasp the opportunity and answer – “Oh, if you say I am beautiful – should I be punished for spending some time to prepare myself for the party? Are you so impatient, uh?”
Moreover, the guy’s girlfriend (or wife) might show solidarity and confirm that men must wait for their women without complaining and even punish him for incautious comments to drink instead of the girl who came late.
* - in some cities – like in my native Chongqing – people address every girl 美女 “mei nϋ” (“beautiful”). Therefore it is not uncommon to hear the greeting 你好，美女 “Ni hao, mei nϋ” even from complete strangers in the street. On the other hand, maybe it is the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy and can partly explain why there are so many beautiful girls in Chongqing!
From the previous example you can see that appropriate and timely response is important to achieve the goal of making others to drink (while preserving yourself the privilege to do so at own convenience).
Here are some of toasts serving the same idea and mostly exploited by girls.
If girl wants a guy to drink the whole glass of beer, she can use the following phrase (rhyming in Chinese):
感情深，一口焖（”gan qing shen, yi kou men”）”If our relationship is good, drink it all” followed by 感情浅，添一添（”gan qing qian, tian yi tian”）”If not, you can just sip a bit”. Of course, the guy will empty his glass.
Now it’s girl’s turn to make the move and she continues the game saying:
喝一半，感情不断（”he yi ban, gan qing bu duan”）”I drink half, so that our relationship goes on”. And accordingly she drinks just half of the glass!
Generally speaking, when toasted in China men are always supposed to drink **.
Women, on the other hand, have a privilege to miss a round (or even ask someone to drink instead of her). But don’t be deceived by slender looks of Chinese girls. You might be surprised to reveal that some of them can make a tough competition to guys in drinking alcohol.
** – As a side remark, refusing to drink too often will make a man look hypocritical, and in China it could lose so needed social relationships (“guanxi”) with far-going consequences.
Talking about drinking competitions I have to mention the popular Chinese drinking games. There are many ways to entertain the drinkers and the culture of such games in China has a rich history which can be traced to Tang dynasty.
Today they usually revolve around some kind of riddles, counting, card games and in each round the loser has to drink.
If you want to play such game with a girl – you can choose a “Little Bee” game.
Below is the quote from an article about drinking games that gives a good explanation of its rules:
It is a game for two. First, the players sing a little verse: “Liangzhi xiao mifeng ya, fei dao huacong zhong ya, fei ya” (two little bees fly to the flowers, and fly). After singing, each player imitates either a rock, paper or scissors with his/her hand. The winner (the one who shows a sign that beats the other player’s sign’) must pretend to slap the other player, while saying “Pya Pya.” The loser must pretend to be slapped while saying “Ah Ah.” If both people show the same sign, they pretend to kiss, while saying “Mua Mua.” Of course, this has to be done as quickly as possible. The first to say the wrong sentence or does the wrong action must take a drink.
Repetition is the mother of learning. Watch this video to see the game in action.
Before you rush out for some crazy party or KTV I have to explain the last thing – what “whole-sale” 打批发(“da pi fa” ) toasting is.
There are two main ways in which people toast: either toasting people who sit next to you and with whom you have a conversation or making a “whole-sale” toast accompanied by a little speech which addresses all participants of the party. In the latter case everybody has to drink. That’s why “whole-sale” toasts are not supposed to be made too often. In fact, if you are not sure – it’s better to refrain from doing it at all. Again, there is some exception for girls and their “whole-sale” toasting will be tolerated more readily.
Now you are ready to drink in Chinese parties. Gan bei!
Not a complete stranger to drinking, Crystal Tao