Should I go out drinking with management and staff from my factory? Would I be overstepping a boundary by letting my supplier take me out for a night on the town? These are common questions asked by foreign buyers or importers that visit China to meet with their supplier, and if you've ever visited a factory in China...

Socializing and Factory Relationships

How can drinking beer better your factory relationships? Chinese people, on the whole, are gracious hosts, as we covered in an earlier article on cultural pitfalls. Not only is entertaining guests and treating them to food and drink a common tradition in the Middle Kingdom. The custom retains its prevalence as a common and important practice among business partners. This is because relationship building is such a crucial part of doing business in China. Having a powerful network of influential relationships can often take precedent over tangible skills, education background and personal achievements. You'll want to do your best to foster strong relationships with those you're partnered with in business, including your supplier.

A Word of Caution

But before you let loose and start hitting the sauce with your new best friends - perhaps a bit harder than you're used to - there are a couple of caveats worth mentioning. It's important to keep in mind the value of "face" and the role it can play in drinking. Your host may challenge you to drink at a faster pace than you'd like. Remember not to feel pressured and feel free to politely decline. It's not uncommon for a friend or host to try to drink more than they're used to in an effort not to lose face in front of you. This point is especially important in cases where you might be consuming báijiǔ. factory relationshipsBaijiu (白酒) is Chinese white wine ranging from 35 to 60 percent alcohol. Often the beverage of choice for this kind of social outing, its distinct aroma and flavor, not unlike nail polish remover, make it a favorite among the uninitiated. Be weary of over-consumption though, as a typical baijiu-induced intoxication can come on quickly and leave you regretting it in the morning.

Finally, what would a night out with a factory owner be without the pursuit of more illicit escapades? They may not have planned ahead of time to visit a KTV, or karaoke bar. But once the drinks start flowing, your friends from the factory might suggest you all bounce to such a place and continue the party. You should be aware that, while there are many family-friendly KTVs, some double as brothels. Feel free to excuse yourself from these festivities, keeping in mind that prostitution is illegal in China.

Keep Your Friends Close... And Your Factories Closer!

In summation, take every opportunity to forge stronger factory relationships through wining and dining. There's some truth in the immortal words of Wu-Tang Clan, "cash moves everything around me". But in China relationships are king. So learn all you can from your friendships and keep in mind that you can always decline any invitation you aren't comfortable accepting.

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