At a few recent school related banquets -the type with the large Lazy Susan full of soon to be wasted foods- I refused to drink baijiu and there were issues. Why did I refuse to drink baijiu? Because it is the worst tasting and vilest, cheapest quality drink to found on the planet? No, not really. I just don't drink. I have not drank in six years. There are reasons but what does it matter. If I politely refuse a drink then that is that. Or at least it should be.
Typically there is always the point in these ghastly dinners (I will not make this a food rant, but I could) where drunk people get up and want to do a toast, usually saying something like "to your health", or "your bottom is up". Sometimes you can't even finish your food because you have to keep toasting. I usually have a glass of Sprite or something and toast with it. Normally no issue. But I had some and they are bothering me. A sketch of each event:
1) One dinner the man insisted I have a beer. I told him wo bu hui he jiu 我不饿会喝酒 and normally it ends with me, for some reason, apologizing. Why I have to apologize for not being a person who can't resist sucking down booze when it is tossed under my nose is a mystery, but normally I do. But then he did the "oh, just a little" deal. I sort of began to ignore him. Well, not sort of, I began to ignore him. He plopped a glass of beer on the table in front of me "just a little" and I immediately moved it away to the center of the table. He did not seem to like it but he moved on.
2) I was sick with the flu and had no business at any sort of dinner, but it was really expected of me and another teacher to go and basically be white people representing the school. My flu got worse and I had a fever and sore throat. I am not the cheeriest guy when well but now I was about to fall over with the chills and yet I was supposed to be Mr. Happy Dinner Guy. I felt the people from the other school were cold and distant. Not typical. I introduced myself and it was really awkward. No one said anything. Okay. Groovy. It was explained that I do not drink. I am a Buddhist -seriously okay- and often that is used as an excuse. I have to make excuses! I am a flu stricken Buddhist okay. No drinking. But the school leader ambles over to me with two glasses of rot-gut baijiu and mutters "to your health" and I simply said -in my bad Chinese- I do not drink. Right off, "oh, just a little" and again in bad Chinese I told him bu hui yi dian jiu, not even a little. Man, this guy got pissed off. And his little group did too. The whole losing face deal. I have to drink cheap booze when I am sick just so they call feel good? And it was lunchtime and they had high school classes to return to. But they are hitting that liquor anyway.
3) The last event had a lingdao here at my school saying I was not a man because I declined a toast of baijiu. I am sure he knew I was a man in the sense of possessing the proper genitalia, but I was lacking in the manly area of not having those Hemingway or Pancho Villa traits he finds truly manlike. Maybe it was a joke, I am sure, but a bad joke at my expense in front of everyone at the table.
After a while I do not see why I have to give excuses or apologize for my desire to not drink. I begin to feel testy and defensive. China is basically nation full of non-treated alcoholics and that is fine. Go for it. I did plenty of drinking in my life, I am no saint. But if a man needs to have beer and baijiu with his mixian at 8 or 9 in the morning he has a problem okay. If grown men and women are chugging baijiu and going back to classes to teach children they all have problems. if they can't enjoy their drinking because someone else will not drink with them they have a problem. Cool, the culture supports all that. But I will say this, it is rude and ungentlemanly to push drinking onto people who have said they do not drink. Chinese people have the same pressure, even more so. they try to get out of it but you can see the lingdao getting pissed and they acquiesce.
These guys are a bunch of immature alcoholics. They are forty or fifty but behave like spoiled little boys. In the US a teacher would be fired and most likely arrested for showing up in a classroom under the influence and never work in the field again. Here is just business as usual. And of course the foreign guys who drink copiously and can't say no become the life of the party. Everybody's friend. He is great, wonderful. The guy who shows some restraint and self control is a pussy. He drinks and gets drunk in public! Promote this man!
And in closing, were I to drink after six years of abstinence I would not drink that crappy cheap baijiu, the national brain rot booze of commie China. I would at least drink some good scotch or whiskey. Guess baijiu goes good with greasy spicy mixian, right?