When living in China last year, my own relationship with alcohol changed quite dramatically. In China, firstly the drinking culture is totally different. There are business deals made over shots of baijiu and the whole concept of face…in some situations if you don’t drink, you lose your face. Every time a 干杯 (cheers) is toasted, you must down all of your drink. None of which I was too comfortable with.
One thing I did like about drinking in China was that in bigger cities there is 代驾 (daijia), a service where company drivers who haven’t been drinking loiter around pubs and clubs waiting to drive people home for a fee. How is this different from a taxi? They drive you in YOUR car, so when you go out at the beginning of the night you can still show off whatever car you have (as that’s part of face too) and you don’t need to worry about trying to find your car the next day.
This is a safer way of getting home, as drunk drivers are kept off the road…but I haven’t heard any reviews about how the daijia drivers are at driving!
In China too, a lot of women don’t drink…of course there are plenty who do, but when a woman tells the group ‘I don’t drink’, it’s usually accepted by her peers and people won’t force her to drink.
I found though, when I was in China and tried not to drink, because I was a foreigner, all the conceptions about women not drinking were put to one side and both Chinese people and foreigners would try to make me drink more alcohol than I wanted to.
Being in China, I wasn’t sure that all the drinks would be legit, I know people who have been really ill and blamed it on cheap/fake drinks in clubs from the night before. And as I believe foreigners are more susceptible to be on the receiving end of unwanted or inappropriate male attention (blog post to come soon), drinking shots of ‘tequila’ one after the other wasn’t what I wanted to do..it was risky.
So what did I do? Did I drink? Sometimes I did, but mostly I stood my ground, or I tricked them..my “friends”. Like a child who doesn’t want to eat their peas, I would lift a glass to my mouth…but not drink any. I would switch glasses on the table, I would give the others top ups but none to myself and I would hold my cup in my lap to hide how much I wasn’t drinking, but also to make sure nothing else was put in my cup.
Fast forward to now, I’m back in the UK and for a while now I haven’t been drinking during the week. It’s a habit I’ve got into and I don’t have a problem with not drinking alcohol, even when others around me are having beer or wine, I can just give it a miss.
Last Wednesday, I was at a salsa night with friends. I danced with a guy who I knew I had several friends in common with…although we’d never met before. He then went to the bar, and held out a beer. I thought it was for me to hold while he tied his shoelace or something, but he told me it was for me. I said I didn’t want it, and he was really shocked: “Why? Why don’t you want it?”.
Well for a start, I wasn’t going to accept a drink from a stranger when I didn’t see it being made or poured – RED FLAG. And secondly, as I told him “I don’t drink during the week”. “What, really, but why??!?!” was his reaction..he then turned to his mate and was like “Can you believe it? She doesn’t drink during the week!!” he was astounded, shocked and I felt he was almost mocking me for my decision not to drink.
I got so angry, and I think he didn’t even realise how uncomfortable he was making me feel, as if dancing salsa with strange sweaty men wasn’t uncomfortable enough already.