This article is about Chinese drinking etiquette. Depending on what you are drinking, the drinking rules change. Learn about how different beverages have different etiquette.
Unlike Europeans (and a select few in-the-know Americans), in China, looking someone in the eye when you toast is not imperative. It actually never happens. Don’t be offended, or wait for them to look you in the eye.
“Bai jiu” (pronounced “by-joe”) tastes like vodka. Be sure not to sniff it before you drink or you might gag. I think it is made from fermented rice. I whole-heartedly say it tastes like manure. And you’ll know when you’re drinking bai jiu when they bust out the clear bottle with the red cap. You can say, “Wo bu hui he jiu” (“wo boo hway huh joe”), that means “I don’t drink,” but it probably won’t work and they’ll pour you a glass anyway. Good luck.
Don’t worry about what the books say, “gan bei” does not mean you have to finish your drink (despite the literal translation of “dry cup”). Just take a sip and put your cup down.
Cold drinks are not usually served at restaurants in China. 98% of the time you will have a cup of steaming hot tea. Sometimes people will order a 2-liter of soda, but it us room temperature. About half the time, the beer is not cold. Asking for ice is okay, but don’t expect it to be available.
Do not drink any tap water in China unless you want to experiment with your digestive system. It is okay to use tap water to brush your teeth or wash your face.
- Drink it slowly. Some types of tea cost thousands of RMB per bag. Never ask for ice or sugar for your tea.
- If you ever pour tea for someone else, fill the cup 3/4 full. (When pouring alcohol, top it off, brim to the rim.)
- When someone hands you a cup of tea, take it with two hands. When you give someone a cup of tea, use two hands. (One hand on the bottom, on hand on the side).
- When drinking tea, it is polite to use two hands.
- When someone pours you more tea, it’s polite to touch the side of the teacup as they pour it, and be sure to say “Xie xie” (roughly pronounced “shay shay”), or thank you.