Why I’m glad Qingdao is the beer capital of China

Being male in China means navigating the drinking culture, which varies from region to region. If you want to be healthy and not get drunk on a regular basis, this can be challenging. Not drinking would seriously hinder your social interaction with other men (never mind your ability to conduct business). That’s just how thoroughly embedded into the culture alcohol is. A lot of people — foreigners and Chinese — don’t see any middle ground; it’s either get sloshed or don’t have many male friends.

Just the other night a neighbour came over for a Christmas dinner. He brought me baijiu as a present but said he’d prefer to drink beer with dinner, and to drink slowly. That started a conversation about drinking in China, during which he explained that for two thousand years it’s been proper social etiquette for a host to display generosity by getting his guests drunk, and that only recently has this begun to slowly change toward the more “civilized” drinking of the West, where, in polite company, people can enjoy a little alcohol together but there’s no expectation or obligation to drink extreme amounts. (Turns out most adults don’t like getting routinely wasted — who knew?! ;) )

But that was an exceptional situation. Typically in Qingdao, a half-complete dinner between male friends looks like this:
restaurantbeersIt’d be easy to find bigger bottle displays to photograph; I just happened to snap this mid-meal on the way back from the bathroom the other night. To North Americans it might look like a lot of beer for a family restaurant, but to me it looks like *not baijiu*. Qingdao is the beer capital of China, and that means that — unlike our foreign friends in other parts of China — I don’t have to choose between dealing with baijiu or having male friends.

Because as we all know, one does not simply drink baijiu.

The real Chinese nightlife

Nightlife in China, Qingdao-style:
realchinesenightlife
Little groups like this are sprinkled throughout our neighbourhood in the after-dinner hours. I’m sure we weren’t the only one hanging our beer on the wall.

How you know summer isn’t quite over in Qingdao

There are two ways, in fact. The first is the beer-in-a-bag kegs are still on the sidewalks. The second is:

Man bellies.

I’ve opted not to provide you a photo. But if it’s still hot enough for men to air their bellies by walking around with their shirts rolled up to their armpits, then it’s still officially “hot.”

When the sidewalk beer-in-a-bag kegs and the man bellies are gone, the dog meat won’t be too far behind.

Cheers, in miniature China style

Had a birthday party with some preschool kids, and when we turned around they were doing Chinese-style cheers on their own:
Chinese preschool cheers 1
Chinese preschool cheers 2

A Chinese meal done right is a very special thing

As much as the Chinese obsess about food, it’s not really about the food.
Ganbei!
dinner2
dinner1