Is it time to meet your partner’s Chinese parents? Or maybe join a business meeting with your Chinese colleagues? If you find yourself in a formal dinner setting, there are a few formalities you should be aware of:
Don’t Drink From the Bottle
If you find yourself sitting around a large round table with many people, it will always be set with small glasses for drinks. Whether you brought your own baijiu or order beer from the restaurant, it should all be poured into these glasses before drinking. It’s common to place partially drunk bottles on the table or on the floor beside your chair.
Drink When Everyone Else Drinks
In a typical dining situation, everyone will drink together. The easiest way to do this is to never pick up your glass until everyone else does. If you get thirsty, just wait…it never takes too long. In a similar fashion, you should keep pace with everyone else. It’s not great if you need to get a new bottle before everyone else because they will feel like they aren’t keeping up.
Use Two Hands When Toasting
And you thought toasts were only for weddings! Giving a toast and a cheer is very common. Actually, in formal situations, someone will give a toast every time anyone takes a sip. The toast giver will rotate around the table person-by-person so make sure you’re ready when it’s your turn. If you find yourself in a toast frenzy, there are two things to keep in mind. 1. Use both hands when clinking your glasses and 2. make sure the rim of your glass is below whoever you’re toasting. If you aren’t sure, the boss and/or the oldest people should have the highest glasses.
Cheers vs Ganbei
There isn’t really a word for “cheers” in Chinese. Instead, we just say “bottoms up” (pronounced ganbei, which means dry cup). In reality, ganbei can mean either cheers or bottoms up, so be careful with the word and just follow what everyone else does. Everyone also knows the word “Cheers” so that’s a safe bet if you’re not sure what to say.