Alcoholic beverages are great ways to wind down, to celebrate a successful business transaction, or to socialize with new friends. Some social groups even require drinking from their potential associates, as a test of personality or just a ritual for joining the group. But Asian drinking etiquette differs from country to country, and Westerners may easily commit a grievous faux pas by failing to abide by the manners of their Eastern counterparts (and over-imbibing on the local brew wonâ€™t help matters).
So before partying down the streets of Tokyo, Seoul, or Kuala Lumpur, familiarize yourself on some helpful drinking behavior across Asia.
1. If you find yourself drinking in Korea or Japan in the company of locals, never pour your own drink. Always let your drinking mates pour your drink, and always pour others’ drink in return. When being served, hold the drink up, after which take a couple of sips before setting the glass down.
2. If a Korean elder pours your drink, the proper way to hold your glass is one hand holds the glass, the other hand holds the wrist of the drinking hand. This custom dates back when people wore traditional long-sleeved clothes and accidental spillage would frequently get the sleeves wet.
3. After taking a drink, be prepared to say, “KCCHSSSSSSSSHHHHHH!”
4. Expect a lot of bar-hopping to occur in Korea. The night’s usually not complete until several stops have been made in drinking establishments all throughout the city.
5. A common toast in China is “Gan Bei!”, which means “empty cup”. You don’t necessarily have to empty your glass after this toast; you may take a few sips before putting down your glass.Â Another common Chinese toast is â€œYum Seng!â€, which means â€œFinish drinking!â€. The western equivalent of this is â€œBottoms up!â€
6. When a junior person toasts a senior, he touches the fingers of one hand to the bottom of the drinking glass while holding the glass with the other hand. To play safe, always perform this ritual as an act of humility. Maintain eye contact with the person you are toasting until you finish your speech.
7. You may politely refrain from drinking any more alcohol when you feel youâ€™ve had enough. Many Chinese are strong drinkers and thereâ€™s no need to keep up with them.
8. If you find yourself in Muslim Southeast Asia and thirsty for alcohol, make friends with the local Chinese citizens. Don’t let your Muslim friends buy the beer, or even prepare the beer. And NEVER present your Muslim colleagues with alcoholic gifts, even if they are candies treated in alcohol.
9. Whether itâ€™s Tiger Beer in Singapore, Tsingtao Beer in Shanghai, Kirin Beer in Tokyo, or San Miguel Beer in Manila, have a go with the local favorite. Don’t make a fuss when your favorite drink back home isn’t available in the stores. You didn’t travel all that way just to take a sip of home, did you?
10. Finally, never be that guy who gets stoned drunk and makes a fool of himself in the streets. You are still a visitor in any Asian city you visit, and the local residents have enough trouble from local carousers without having to deal with misbehaving out-of-town guests.