In China, the meal is still a must for smoothing business relationships and moving forward together. On many occasions, alcohol is the order of the day, especially in the Northeast and Shandong. Xinjiang is not stingy on strong drinks either. It can save some deals. I must admit that I had to learn how to be smart in order not to fail. Drinking is not one of my favorite activities, especially since I’m usually preparing for a sports competition. You have to manage it.
Learning to manage
The animation becomes more animated when there are several tables among the guests, even dozens of tables. I’ve already found myself at parties of nearly a thousand people.
You have to manage the toasts well because it’s a blow to find yourself under the table. Whether we know you or not, we’ll come and toast with you. What’s more, if you’re the only foreigner in the game, as happened to me 99.99% of the time, your position is very vulnerable. Unless you play a tune, “I’m sick,” you’ll have to participate in the dance, and commercially, that’s not bad.
Forget the famous 干杯 gān bēi, bottoms-up, for the 随意, suí yì, as you wish (as you like). You signal to your friend that you don’t do bottoms-up. Then he can play a game of head-on. Sometimes the other person wants me to face him and drink bottoms up. And dodge moves don’t always work, so no matter how much you defend yourself “You drink bottoms up, and I’ll drink my way, 你干杯，我，随意！,” if the other person insists, you have no choice.
Depending on your position in the company, you may have to go around all the tables and toast with everyone. Generally speaking, it’s understandable that this long tour – I’ve already done tours of over fifty tables – means that you don’t have to drink bottoms-up at every table. Phew!
A classic facilitator
In 2015, I had to go and solve a problem in Daqing, an oil town between the Russian border and Harbin. Wei, the agent, was not to blame. I was the messenger of a news item that took him out of the deal. Contrary to what was said at first, the industrialist did not give him exclusive rights to the entire northeast, but only to one province, Heilongjiang. I had excellent relations with the Wei, and I offered to go and rub shoulders with the Siberian cold to avoid a catastrophe. Wei was very much recovered and was ready to go to war (which would have penalized both sides) to make sure the original commitments were respected. When I arrived in the middle of the meal, I felt that it would be difficult to convince him to give in. I left on the register of friendship and ordered a rice wine, quite strong, at 60 degrees. I told him that I had tried everything to avoid this situation and that we were both victims of a unilateral decision and that we would make up for it in the future. Alcohol brought binder, and little by little, the tactic that was put in place softened the mood, and Wei was willing to listen to reason. Recently he confessed to me: “Luckily we drank, otherwise I wouldn’t have given in! We solved the problem! ».
Meals in China often have a great atmosphere. The ceremony is sometimes important, and I am never bored. As an observer or/and an actor, one dives into the codes of society with curiosity and interest.
15 June 2020