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Turning down drink without causing loss of face?


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Elina, women can get away with not drinking, or only asking for tea/soft-drink. The same is rarely true for guys. Saying you're allergic doesn't work either (see gougou's comments above about religion).

I think for men, you still can try for “saying you're allergic”, because most people don’t care about the religion, but care about your health.

once you've had one glass and it's been witnessed that you have drunk some alcohol, there is usually no going back and to not continue drinking would also cause offense. Usually the complaints start out innocently enough, along the lines of "you drank a full glass for him, why won't you drink a full glass for me?", or "you drank a full glass with me before, why won't you do it now?"

I agree, so from the very beginning, you’d better clearly show your decision or “苦衷” of “打死我也不喝” :mrgreen:, it’s hard to accept the first drink and refuse the continued.

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I attend representational banquets 3-4 times a week, and as a teetotaler I haven't had any problems. What has worked for me is to involve the host early on, by either telling them directly in a discreet manner that I don't drink, or by telling my Chinese counterpart the same thing, and allowing him or her to tell the host. Then the host is able to gain face by explaining to the other guests that I don't drink. I find that many hosts actually become quite protective of me, regularly reminding the servers not to pour me wine, baijiu, etc., and actively refilling my glass of juice/soda/water/etc.

I'm sure the day will come when I will have to just say "no," but so far avoiding alcohol hasn't been an issue for me.

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Show them a video of any British provincial town at 2am on a Saturday morning, shout "BRING IT ON!", smash the table as hard as you can with both fists, then down the drink.
Fantastic.:lol: Any youtube clips featuring that?
How I wish this were true. I've tried this tactic too' date=' but sadly, there are some people who will just never let it rest.[/quote'] You are sure to have grown a reputation of 能喝。:mrgreen: Not surprised...
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No, I have a reputation of not drinking, which just seems to make some people try harder :wall Some of the worst offenders are those who I've known now for a few years, and who know perfectly well that I don't really drink, but every meal with them, it's still the same routine. In an ideal world, I'd just not go to dinner with the worst offenders, but that's not always possible due to fact that we have social circles that partially overlap.

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  • 4 years later...

It's already pointed out what to do if you don't drink, but to avoid the 20+ toasts you will do throughout the night I suggest 入乡随俗 and pretend to be drunk. My classmates will throw a few beers back and look like they are ready to pass out (stumbling, slurring, pointing and shouting across the table). I was initially very worried but sure enough as soon as the beer was gone, everyone sobered up fast.

I was still taken back at how much my female classmates were pushed to drink all night. They got away with taking sips of half filled cups, which was soon switched out with juice/pop.

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  • 1 month later...

Thankfully my reaction to this situation is "thank god! I've been clothes shopping all day with the missus, her mum and cousin, let's get it on!". So far only a robust friend from 河南 has been close to shot at the title. But one time I met a guy who was a friend of the girlfriend's family, really friendly and did a lot to sort out another friends wedding. We took a shine to each other and he proposed a drinking contest, he folded pretty quickly but wanted me to smoke with him, something I'm not against other people doing but I'd never done it. I find it a dirty habit. So I refused but he was pretty insistent, my girlfriend was saying 'just one, it'll be alright' but I still wouldn't accept the cigarette, which made me feel a bit of a dick. But the main concern I had was that I was in my mid-twenties, never smoked, and if I accepted the cigarette now I'd look a right dork trying to smoke for the first time, like when you see some young fourteen year olds hanging out on the streets smoking. This seems to have only been a one off, nobody else seems to care if I turn down a smoke, but I still think, that in terms of male bonding in China, it wouldn't have killed me to look an idiot with a cigarette. I think now I'm a bit more relaxed, and if I'm going to learn the language I might as well join in with the culture as well. I'm not saying that's what everyone should do because drinking alcohol and smoking is stupid, it has no lasting benefits, but I enjoy drinking, and cigars occasionally, still not cigarettes.

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  • 3 months later...
just tell the truth; you don't drink. if they have a problem with that, too bad. i think the 'losing face' problem is an overblown western movie 'inscrutable oriental' stereotype, at least in this case. anyone that takes such offense that they resort to bullying you (beyond simple peer pressure; "c'mon have a drink") to force you to drink, is neither a friend nor a good host, regardless of the culture.
Agreed. I've turned down drinks in the US and China. No biggy, geez...

If anything, I've gotten more of a reaction (insisting that I do) occasionally in the US than in China (never).

But, the absurd lengths (lying, faking, elaborately premeditated schemes, etc) that people will go to here instead are far worse behavior than the perceived unduly peer pressure to begin with. Everyone pretending to be what everyone else is pretending they want them to be? Sheesh, what a ludicrous, circle-jerking farce. :roll::lol:

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imron
Agreed. I've turned down drinks in the US and China. No biggy, geez...

You've obviously never had a meal with people who do see this as a "biggy", and there is a large number of Chinese who see it this way, especially the more north you go, and especially when the people you are eating with know you speak good Chinese because you don't get given any slack for being a foreigner ignorant of social norms.

And it's not "perceived" peer pressure, it's very real, with people pointing their drained glass at you and telling you need to drink your glass too otherwise you are showing them disrespect, and then having to sit through the entire dinner being lectured over and over about Chinese drinking culture and how you need to drink with everyone else and blah blah blah.

If you've never been in such a situation then I envy you, but it's a very real, and very unpleasant experience when it happens (if you don't want to drink).

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Brian US

This is especially the case when you have the host come to you, which just spent a small fortune compared to the average Chinese person on booze. Friend told me the other day about a Chinese guy buying for the table only to be refused by a western girl to toast (in a western bar, so not really in front of everyone). Typical situation where she was offended and he was more angry about her response as a simple 不 followed by another 不.

I suggest throwing your arm around their shoulder with a few paused out 哥们儿's, and just say some flattering nonsense. In the west this spells out babbling buffoon, but in China it spells success.

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count_zero

I was told by a Chinese person that the only acceptable excuse for not drinking alcohol in a business feast situation is that you and your wife are trying for a baby.

If by some remote chance they don't catch on, explain that your doctor told you not to drink alcohol so that your sperm will be the best quality for your one child (here's hoping for a boy!!!).

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hbuchtel

I don't know if this works in other cities, but here in Changsha 'I'm driving' is a completely acceptable excuse for not drinking.

I have one group of friends who are extremely heavy social drinkers, and starting about a year and a half ago I started hearing this (quite reasonable) excuse. Often the first question heard at dinners is 'Did you drive?' or 'I told you not to drive this time!' etc.

Unfortunately I don't have a car, and until there is a crackdown on drunk pedestrians I will have to drink my fill...

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irishpolyglot

When I was taking the

, my cabin-mates offered me a drink. I don't ever drink, and preferred to change the subject, so pulled the "I'm allergic to alcohol" line and they bought it ;) No faces lost, I made some great friends and they gave me my official Chinese name!
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irishpolyglot

Is Wuhan "down south"?

I've been in some really tough places in the world were people can be quite persistent, but I find that saying it confidently that I'm not interested, changing the subject, and most importantly, showing that I'm having fun and don't "need" to drink to loosen up, has worked. In countries which are way more notorious for drinking than China (including Ireland), you can indeed do this.

In my experience, someone's own awkward way of discussing that they don't drink almost begs others to convince them to start, since they "need to loosen up". Considering how I do most of my socialising in bars and the like, I don't think northern China can be a "bigger issue" than in the Czech Republic, Brazil during Carnaval, Germany in late September, France when offered wine, etc. A dinner in northern China as a "completely different social situation" can't hold a candle to these situations.

I'll be socialising for over a week in Beijing soon enough, eating out with people etc. and am sure I won't have any issues. Perhaps that's also not far north enough?

For a really tough nut to crack, if he asks why I don't drink, rather than start a discussion that could go on forever, I sidetrack and tell him the legend of Asterix and Obelix as an oblique reference to why I don't drink (as mentioned here). The story itself is so distracting that by the time I've told it, they forget what they asked in the first place and a change of topic is incredibly easy. Drunk or tipsy people have shorter attention spans, or are more interested in talking for fun rather than actually debating something, and it's very easy to take advantage of this.

Don't make it an issue and it won't be one. I brush it off every time everywhere, and people get over it and talk about something else.

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Meng Lelan

Does this depend on the group you're with? Because when I dine out with a group in China, it's always with a bunch of teachers and professors. Alcohol is not some big issue with them it seems. You drink what you want to drink not what they want you to drink.

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Sam Reeves

'I have an allergy'/'wo you guo me' is always the best way I've found.

All the rest of the excuses seem to have some weakness, in my experience anyway. I've never tried the 'I'm having a baby' one though, so I can't say that one works or not.

There are just simply too many times in China when refusing alcohol otherwise is just likely to cause some (unspoken) misunderstanding or loss of face.

To directly refuse is the western way, to side-step it, is the Chinese way. When in Rome...

Personally, I am actually allergic to alcohol, it has a very strange effect on me, the more I drink, the less I can stand up. Excessive amounts can also cause vomiting too. I have been fighting this allergy by direct exposure to the allergen, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

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anonymoose
'I have an allergy'/'wo you guo me' is always the best way I've found.

That's a good way to duck the situation - just say some jibberish leaving everyone in confusion.

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