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When making a deal with your clients in Asia, it is highly likely that you will go out for drinks over a meal. Chinese “drinking race” culture exerts a subtle influence on other countries in Asia like Taiwan, Japan, and Korea. People in these countries also tend to drink together over a meal. It is advisable to be aware of this cultural tradition before doing buisness with Asian clients to avoid misunderstanding.
Chinese drinking culture
Chinese drinking culture has occurred for many years. Whether it is beer, wine or spirits, people drain the glass without a second thought. For example, in China or Taiwan, there are at least 8 to 10 dishes on a dining table for a large group of people. Sometimes when the atmosphere gets warmer, people propose a toast after finishing the first couple of dishes. In order to create a friendly atmosphere or to show their enthusiasm, some people spontaneously make a toast with ‘bottoms up’ the implied meaning. They also like to play games, such as the finger guessing game. The losers are punished by having to finish their drink.
Observe others’ personalities and get closer with each other during the drinking
Chinese people like to start a conversation and create a friendly atmosphere through their drinking culture to develop good relations. It is also a good opportunity to acquire information that might not be easily accessible from formal meetings. Some people also suggest going for drinks can divulge more information on the client by getting to know their personalities and hobbies.
It also enables the opportunity to identify the points that matter most to the client to lead to a successful deal by proper negotiation.
Show sincerity even with poor drinking capacity
Drinking culture is not judged by whether one can hold liquor well, but by whether one’s drinking capacity in good or not. In Chinese drinking culture it is about demonstrating the will to drink with the client and demonstrating respect and sincerity. It is an inevitable work-related event that a salesperson has to deal with it when conducting business in Asia.
In Japan and Korea, pick a side during the drinks
In China or local areas of Taiwan, officials need to build connections with people by drinking. In northern China, friendships are measured by a person’s drinking capacity; therefore, getting drunk is the top priority. Japanese and Koreans also like to drink. They tend to pick a side when drinking because joining a specific party comes with many advantages and resources. Japanese also tend to socialize with clients by drinking in an izakaya ( is a type of informal Japanese gastropub) or soaking in hot springs.
New generation entrepreneurs don’t make deals by drinking
Drinking can be harmful to health and with ever increasing self-awareness campaigns and information being disseminated on the dangers of alcohol has led to governments dealing out severe punishments for DUI (driving under the influence) offences. This has led to some people avoiding drinking alcohol on the grounds of needing to drive home. Compared to other industries, Tech-
industry focuses on the products rather than drinking culture, since it is the products that leads to success. With the rise of new generation entrepreneurs comes the decline of drinking culture. For example, the chairman of China’s Himin group prohibited drinking alcohol and asked employees to focus on developing products and raising the service quality. The group has now become the largest manufacturer in solar energy industry.
Drinking culture is still an important way to socialize in Asian countries, however it has declined in recent years. For businesses, there are still many effective ways to make a deal, increase revenues and improve competitiveness without the need for drinks.