Chinese Bars, Karaoke in China, Nightlife in China KTV

If you are traveling to China, living in China, have friends or family who just moved to China, or are going to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, you will need to brush up on your Chinese Etiquette. Here you can find the most comprehensive guide by an expatriate who has lived in China for over two years. Here you can learn what nightlife entails in China: bars in China, Chinese karaoke and more.

Bar Scene / Nightlife

    Visiting China Travel Tips Advice Robert Thompson
  • The bar scene in China is lively and loud. If you are doing business, expect that only men will go out to drink.
  • Younger generations play drinking games like “liar’s dice” or guessing games that expedite the drinking process. It is all about having a good time.
  • Chinese bars have shows, comedians, short plays, lots of live singing, and the essential loud distorted Chinese PA system. The point is, if you are used to going to Bob’s Tavern where it’s all low-key, get ready for something different.
  • When you want to call a waiter over, use the terms “fu wu yuan” (pron. “foo-wu-yen”) or for a female “xiao gunia” (pron. “shaw goo-nya”). Never use the term “xiao jie” (“xiao” starts with “sh” and rhythms with “wow”, then “jee-yah”, so “xiao jee-yah”), as it is condescending and dated. You would be surprised at how many books still teach that “xiao jie” is appropriate.


  • Karaoke is very popular way to spend social time. There are karaoke houses, or more commonly known as “KTVs” all over China, some of which rival the looks and feel of an AMC movie theater in the States.
  • You will get a private, insulated room that has (distorting) speakers, a television, a large central table, and couches lining the walls. There will be two microphones and a serious, heavy-duty delay (I guess you could call it reverb) on the vocal tracks.
  • The Chinese are not shy about singing and will insist that you sing. If you do not want to sing, you can say, “Wo bu hui chang ge” (I cannot sing).
  • If you do go to Karaoke, the volume level will most likely be too loud, but do not ask to turn the music down. Come prepared! Use earplugs and explain that you have hearing problems if they ask. You can say, “Wo de yisheng shou wo de er duo bu hao, sou yi wo xu yao yong zhei ge dong xi” while you point to your ears (My doctor said my ears are no good, that’s why I have to use these).
  • Don’t feel oblidged to patiently listen to someone who is singing. It is not considered rude to multitask in the karaoke room. Someone can be singing while four other people are slamming down dice on the table, playing drinking games.
  • Be aware that you are going to be in a small room with little or no ventalation, and that most of the Chinese people in the room will be smoking.
  • One of the coolest things about karaoke rooms is the little button on the wall that alerts an attendant. Need more beer? They arrive within seconds.

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10 thoughts on “Chinese Bars, Karaoke in China, Nightlife in China KTV

  1. Pingback: Chinese Table Etiquette: Important Tips, What to Say, Paying the Bill at Still Point

  2. Having lived in 3 different cities (Nanjing, Xuzhou, and now Xiamen) for over 2 years, I’ve never had any problems nor heard anyone warn against using xiao jie. They all seem to be fine with it here. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

  3. It may be something that is in a transitional phase right now. Sort of like how Americans went from saying secretary to admin assistant, or stewardess to flight attendant.

    While “xiao jie” may still be accepted socially, many of my friends have advised against it. Fu-wu-yuan (which sounds like “foo-yen”) is a much more polite way to address someone in a restaurant.

    In my first week in China, in Dali, (following the advise of my Lonely Planet book) I addressed a waiter with “xiao jie” and she immediately spun around scowled at me. (Whoops.)

  4. A few years back xiao-jie would be fine, but now it’s meaning is leaning towards an escort girl, but it all depends on how the person takes it

  5. I live in China all my life and yes I am Chinese. Xiao jie is appropriate way of calling them. We use Xiao jie all our lives whereever in China we go. It actually more polite than the other one. Trust me.. if they are mad because you called them xiao jie, its not because of that, it might be a nother reason.

  6. “Xiao Jie” is certainly okay depending where you are – Beijing it certainly leans more toward prostitute or companion and (foo-yen) is preferred. I lived in Guangzhou for two years and the local staff of my office told me to use “xiao jie” if I wanted to speak Mandarin, in Cantonese, the predominant language of that province it was another term i learned – and got me better service for sure. I think the scowl you got was more from the waitress sick and tired of being called – a waitress in China can be treated pretty poorly or at least called relentlessly, and for no tips.

    China is practically impossible to lock down to a single set of etiquette. Anyone who has lived here – going on 3 years form with a Chinese fiance as well – will find what the guide books say works for about the time of your vacation, thats it. Living here and working here is a very different story. Working a “real job” or English teaching or pursuing a larger creative endeavor will net three very different outlooks.

    Everything someone has told to do, say, or act has proven to be true and then very soon been proven to be false – that is the only thing you can really count on in China, confusion – so enjoy it.

  7. I need some information on china nightlife before i could travel there and i need to know what or how much will it’s take to spend there….

  8. I just wanted to add, anyone touring here in China should def try to treat your waitresses well. You are not allowed to tip in most places but be nice! Many Chinese treat the waitresses very poorly and if you will give them a little respect and patience they will help you out.

  9. Pingback: Relocation: China | International relocation, Moving to China, Expat Life | Move One InMotion

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