Learning to refuse toasts in the season of ganbei

Updated: 2012-01-26 09:05

By Zhou Huiying and Ma Zhenhuan (China Daily)

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HARBIN - With people loading up on food and drink for family gatherings and parties during Spring Festival, some worry that "the ganbei culture" and heavy drinking at banquets will ruin their holidays and health.

Learning to refuse toasts in the season of ganbei

Li Li, 36, from Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, said she often feels pressured at business banquets to drink too much with friends and clients and the problem get worse during the holidays.

"Repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly, clients come to me proposing toasts, and they won't stop until I'm drunk," she complained. "Unfortunately, in our culture, you just don't turn down a toast - people would feel humiliated and consider your rejection a put-down. But it seriously hurts my health."

She was lucky enough to hear about courses on practical non-drinking, focusing on drinking etiquette, and more important, how to avoid getting drunk at banquets. Afterward, she learned that she was not the only one.

"I often have to attend parties that require a lot of drinks. However I'm not good with alcohol. To stay healthy, I came up with a series of strategies that allow me to dodge the endless toasts without embarrassing the people who propose them," said Xiu Weiliang, the principal of Harbin Weiliang Institute of Interpersonal Relation, who is the tutor and speaker of the "drinking strategy" course.

The course, launched three years ago, has had more than 200 graduates, most of them entrepreneurs and private business owners.

Chen Bin, a 48-year-old manager of a local construction company, said he had gained a lot from the course.

"It's not good for your health to drink more than you can take, especially for people my age. I learned in the course how to avoid drinking the liquor poured in my glass in an easy-going way with a joke or excuse," he said.

"For instance, I'll say I shouldn't drink because I'm driving or joke that my wife gets bad-tempered if I come home drunk.

"In certain cases when you just have to drink, you can propose a toast, take a small sip, and spit it out into the refreshing towels on the table, or into the cup of tea you're drinking," he added.

Qian Ziliang contributed to this story.