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Major Differences between Chinese and Western Drinking Culture

The profound tea culture in China may impress you a lot. Speaking of drinking, compared to the freestyle drinking in the west, Chinese drinking culture is controlled and ritualized. We guess you may also want to know more about the major differences between Chinese and western drinking culture. For the following discussion, let’s focus on these aspects:



Chinese people mainly emphasis on the people who drink tighter with them, while western people put a heavier emphasis on the beverage itself. In Chinese drinking culture, the taste of the liquor or wine isn’t so important as the people involved. When it comes to some social events, Chinese care more about who they drink with, no matter for business meetings, family or celebrations. This phenomenon also indicates the collectivistic culture in China.

For western people, the taste of the actual drink means a lot to them, as they concern more about individual’s feeling. Moreover, for some westerners, wine-tasting is an enjoyable moment, which plays an important role in their life.



Compared to China, there are more options in western countries, and each country has its own drinking traditions. In general, you can choose from beer, white/red wine, champagne, rum, cider, brandy, whisky, vodka, cocktails and plenty more drinks. Chinese brands are not so popular in the west.

Chinese People Prefer Local Wine

In China, beer and Chinese White Liquor (known as Baijiu) are enjoyed by the majorities. Nowadays, some foreign drinks are increasing in popularity among lots of young adults, but it’s a far cry from local alcohol in China. There are many kinds of famous brands of Chinese beers and liquors, yellow wine and fruit wine are also popular in China.

Famous Chinese beers like Snow Beer and Tsingtao Beer are very famous in China, and for Chinese Liquor brands, there is a full array of liquors available, such as Maotai, Wu Liang Ye, Luzhou Laojiao, Jian Nan Chun, Xifengjiu, Fenjiu, Gujing Gongjiu, Dongjiu, Yanghe Daqu, Langjiu, etc.

Tsingtao Beer

Additionally, each area of China may have some other local brands. In some districts, locals make wine at home, generally are yellow wine, made from rice or sticky rice, and fruit wine, mainly made from grapes, waxberries, oranges and litchis.

Tasting some local wine is highly recommended during your trip in China, especially when you’re traveling in Tibet, for you can try the highland barley wine in no other place but on the plateau. You’d better not miss this amazing experience.



In Chinese culture, people show great respect to elders and authorities, and it may also be applied to the Chinese drinking culture, just hold the glass lower than them when clinking glasses. What’s more, you’d better finish your glass.

Chinese people will say “Ganbei” for the toast, it’s similar to “cheers” English, but the actual meaning is to dry your glass, or bottom up. Thus, it’s more polite to finish your drink when someone proposes a toast, rather than just take a sip, this is the best way to show your respect.


The drinking rules for each social activity may vary from each other, the key is to follow what others do and show your respect all the time. Don’t worry too much about it, Chinese people are kind to foreign friends, they won’t force you to drink if you’re not willing to.


4.Wine Games

There are more wine games in China than in western countries. As Chinese people prefer communal eating, wine games are really popular in any social activities that involves alcohol, as wine games may easily liven up the atmosphere. When you enter a bar or a KTV in China, you may find there are dice and cards on the table, moreover, finger-guessing game is one of the most popular drinking games among most Chinese people.

In some ethnic villages, there are some special toasting songs, tourists should have a drink before entering the village. Also, they will sing during the meal and have some interesting games. It will be an amazing experience to visit ethnic villages. Additionally, wine they served are generally home-made wine, don’t hesitate to have a try.

Experience Chinese Drinking Culture in Guizhou


5.Survival Tips

How to survive from Chinese drinking frenzy? If you’re going to a Chinese meal, you can hardly get rid of drinking. By knowing some tips, you may enjoy the meal better.

Never be late. You will be “punished” for more glasses of wine if you’re the last one for the party.

Be aware that you may need a couple of hours until the end. Make sure you eat some food, and remember to take less Baijiu. If you really have to drink, you can choose beer instead.

Once you’re in, you’re in. If you don’t refuse at the beginning of the dinner, maybe you will be encouraged to drink more till the end. You can wisely pretend that you can’t drink and politely request a pot of tea, so that you could participate in the toasts and cheers.

Take it easy. Your Chinese friends won’t blame on you if you’re unable to drink, but you’d better let them know the fact at the very beginning. They care more about whether you enjoy the time with them.

By knowing the major differences between Chinese and western drinking culture, hopefully you can get to know Chinese people better. For more discussions about the Chinese drinking culture, please feel free to contact Top China Travel.


Explore China with Top China Travel

As a culture between material and spirit, drinking culture in China has a profound history since ancient times. For those who love traditional Chinese culture, it’s time to start your tour plan for China. See some China Tours and easily plan your trip.

Tsingtao Beer Museum


Not interested in these tours? The best way is to have a tailor-made tour for China, you can just tell us your favorite cities and attractions, we’re happy to make all the arrangements for you to explore the best of China.