Drinking age in Beijing
When it comes to the drinking age in Beijing it seems that technically there is no set legal age for the purchase and consumption of alcohol in the country of China. However, a law that was put in place in 1999 prohibits the sale of alcohol to children. It seems that the legal age is considered to be 18 based on this law. Most of the bars in Beijing will not serve alcohol to anyone that is under the age of eighteen. However, market owners may sell alcohol to those that are younger than this age. It is not technically against the law for a person under the age of eighteen to drink alcohol in the privacy of their home or a friend’s home.
Drinking Etiquette in China
If you are going to be drinking in China you will learn the word Ganbei. This is the Chinese word meaning “cheers” and is commonly stated when a group is drinking together. When out with a group it is important to note what is meant by the word Ganbei. The technical definition means to dry the glass. However, not everyone takes this literally and often taking just a mouthful of the beverage is acceptable. Be careful as the people in your group will often watch you for cues and if you down the glass on the first Ganbei you are going to be in for a long night.
There are several rules that you should learn before drinking in Beijing. First, it is important to not be tricked into drinking more than you are comfortable with. A Chinese friend might attempt to drink more than he is able so that he does not lose face. Typically they will watch you to determine the pace.
If you are drinking with someone who is superior to you in any way, position, age or otherwise it is appropriate to lower the rim of your glass so that it clinks under his/hers. You should also always maintain eye contact with the person that you are toasting with while drinking, even though this may be a bit awkward. When a glass is empty most Chinese people will show you the bottom of their empty glass to show that they have completed their drink.
If seated at a large table that has a lazy Susan in the middle it is common to simply tap your glass to the lazy Susan instead of reaching across the table to clink glasses. It is absolutely essential that at some point during the meal you toast the person that is paying and thank them. If you do not do this they will be offended. The person that invited you out is typically the one that will pay. However, if you are unsure of who is paying it is okay to wait to see who pays the bill and toast the person after the bill is paid. Make sure that you also toast any older people that are out with you at least once as well.