Bottoms Up in Beijing: Competitive Drinking



Nothing like being wined and dined China style. I met with an education consultancy agency and the Chairman took me and the staff out for lunch. As is common in local restaurants we got our own private room with the large rotating glass table top. Is this a lazy Susan in China? So just whirl your dish around from the other side of the table and pluck out whatever you want with chopsticks. I worried about etiquette – aren’t we all using our own silverware to go digging around in everyone’s food? Yep.

The Beijing Duck (that still sounds weird to me after most of my life it being Peking Duck) required some assembly and a woman came in the room and donned plastic gloves. She started rolling duck, vegetables and sauce into tortilla-like sheets of tofu and the staff kept loading them onto my plate. The trouble with several days in a row of agent visits is the whole week everyone wants to take me out for duck for lunch and dinner. The hospitality is appreciated, however. Very gracious. Then there is the drinking part of all this. The Chairman brought in a bottle of liquor which I was told is sort of a Chinese form of rice wine/vodka. I wouldn’t exactly call something that was 104 proof wine. Drinking were me, a retired Canadian school rep, and two staffers. The rest were allegedly driving though there were four of them and only two cars. Whatever. Time to drink the American under the table. We toasted, Bottoms up! (kahm-bay!) and started knocking back the stuff. I knocked back a scoop of mashed potatoes (unexpected dish) and another of rice after every drink in hopes of intercepting a bit of the firewater. We finished off the bottle, remarkably, and I was relieved they didn’t order another. I was already a bit snoozy for the afternoon. I guess I passed the test though.

Four buttons to press for: 1) order, 2) water, 3) the check, 4) cancel accidental-drunken or curious-tourist button pressing.

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