Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting to know each other

Drinking because you "have to?" Not in my world!

On Tue night we had dinner with a fairly new acquaintance, Alex, a young Chinese guy from Guilin who’s running his own company. Since we don’t know each other that well, there were a lot of basic, getting-to-know-each-other questions. It’s funny these things, how they can be so different depending on where you come from. We (two Scandinavians) asked Alex things like:

-Where are you from?
-Why did you come to Shanghai?
-What did you study?
-How come you started your own company?

Alex, however, wanted to know:

-Do we like to drink alcohol?
-Do we smoke?
-Can we eat spicy food?
-How much do we pay in rent?

Quite an interesting conversation we had going there. Basically we found out that Alex came to Shanghai from Guilin 4,5 years ago (like us!), as he felt Guilin had nothing to offer him. He came here to study (International Business) but once he graduated he realized how hard it was to find a job that was related to his degree… so he went on and started his own company instead. The company is doing OK, but he wished business was better.

What about us then?

Well, Alex found out that we are two non-smokers, who sometimes drink alcohol. We like spicy food, and probably seem to have some kind of obsession with Hunan food as I couldn’t stop talking about it (gosh!). Oh, and we pay a smaller fortune in rent (compared to Alex).

We must have made a splendid impression!

When speaking of smoking and drinking, Alex also revealed his attitude towards this:

-Yeah I don’t like alcohol at all… beer, booze, wine –I don’t like the taste. I only drink it when I’m with my friends.

-Eh… but why do you drink it if you don’t like it.

-Well you know. Because I’m with my friends!

-But, can’t you just say no?

-Of course not! It’s the same with smoking. I don’t like it. But I smoke when I’m with my friends.

-But that like… I mean, smoking is not good for you?! It kills you! It ruins your lungs!

-Well, I don’t really smoke. Only when I’m with my friends every night.

Gosh, how SAD! An unwilling smoker, ruining his lungs despite him not even liking I, for what must be the most stupid reason of them all: pure peer pressure!



Don Tai said...

I have had similar issues with smoking and drinking in China. I was told quite simply that real Chinese men all smoked and drank. I believe this was also true here in North America in the '50s-'60s, but has changed.

Without smoking and drinking certain social settings can initially feel a little awkward. I simply work through it. In many cases it is difficult for the average Chinese guy to comprehend how another Chinese guy cannot smoke or drink. This is very slightly different with more educated Chinese, in my experience. I have met many a Chinese farmer who could not understand how I could be so friendly yet not smoke with them. After a while I stopped trying to explain.

Anonymous said...

that's just peer pressure. or it's communism... every one must do the same things or say the same things otherwise you're not part of the group.

he can't stand up for himself for what he really believes in esp with those superficial friends he's got. enough excuses....

TG said...

Peer pressure is stronger in East Asia, because it's not good, if you stand out from the group.

Alisi said...

A Chinese friend of mine told me that he didn't like drinking but at the university (one of the top schools in China) he was forced to get drunk regularly – not tipsy, but drunk to the point of throwing up. And all that for proving his friends that he was a good friend, and in turn, his friends did this for him too. How throwing up translates into being a good friend is beyond my comprehension...

(btw sorry if you got the comment twice, my internet is acting weird)

WoAi said...

I'm the opposite. I like the taste of alcohol, but I only drink it when I'm with friends. Just seems odd to drink alone. Maybe it's just me.

Anonymous said...

as it happened, I checked your blog today and found your wise articles about the world. I like them. Meanwhile, I found that it is interesting that we almost have the similar experiences. oringally I am chinese and from shanghai china. I got my master degree in holland and worked in Shanghai later. Last year I was sent to Sweden by the company and live in Malmö, Skåne. Next year, I am heading to UK and will be back in China later. So I am quite interested your profile and experiences and wish to chat with you. Would you please send you contact into my email box

胡崧 said...


Because getting drunk to the point of throwing is like showing yourself at the lowest point and often your true self to the others. This implies you are so tight with them that you are not afraid of exposing your worst self to them.

I hope that makes sense.