Drinking is such a huge part of doing business in China that it almost seems impossible to get around it. Many people are intimidated with the idea of getting drunk during an important business meeting and often wonder if there are any alternatives to making connections with Chinese without the use of alcohol. For those who have been involved with the so-called game for a while they have either built up a high tolerance to alcohol or have pulled off a few tricks of their own in order to protect both their health and insanity. Below are some tips how you can steer clear of being subjected to excessive boozing and yet achieve your goals in business.
- Take your clients to a set location where the staff knows you. Such a place can be at a KTV location, a restaurant or wherever where you have good relations with the staff. This is important because you can arrange the staff to give you set drinks for you and your clients, with yours being altered from the rest. For example, you can choose two kinds of liquids that resemble water-either vodka or Chinese rice alcohol baijiu. Arrange that as the staff brings out different cups with yours containing water and the rest alcohol. Every time when you say cheers you throw back a glass of water and pretend like you just took a hard hit of liquor while everyone else is becoming inebriated. Make sure your acting skills are good with this one and not only will you be the most sober one there, everyone else will think you are incredible for having such a high alcohol tolerance. Make sure to bribe the staff and or tip them in some way so that they play along, otherwise if they rat you out you may get in trouble.
- If the method in number 2 scares you too much, then still make sure you have dibs on where a business meeting will take place, such as a tea house. A teahouse in China provides a different type of feeling, one that shows you are successful, honest, and gentleman like in nature for taking a client there. Tea is a good topic of conversation as it shows the depth of which you know food and drink in addition to culture, farming and the overall art of making the prevalent drink. Make sure to learn your tea beforehand otherwise you will look like a fool.
- Talk business at a show. Go to something like Peiking Opera show where table seating is available. Typically, smaller venues that have these kinds of shows or traditional music shows sell limited amounts of drinks, so if there is any drinking it would be at a minimum and restricted from getting too ought of hand as it would be rude to the performers. Since it is a cultural environment you can also push for tea and other drinks instead of alcohol.
- Go to a massage parlor. No, I don’t mean you need to engage in explicit behavior, although that does happen. Rather, you can go to one of many bathhouses that are strictly for massages and spa treatment. Chinese do this quite often and it is a good way for everyone to unwind in a comfortable way and discuss matters while they get their feet rubbed. Make sure to research which ones are legit as to avoid your client getting a surprise happy ending from the masseuses!
- Arrange a sports meeting. In China, partaking in leisure activities such as golf is actually considered a high-end activity for the rich (gold courses in China are rare and often very expensive compared to places such as the US, with membership often required, so this option may not work for you). Taking in a round of golf and being able to chat around the course produces a great atmosphere for bringing up business and is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative means.