Nightlife: Costly China
Karaoke is king and the drinks are anything but cheap.
If there’s one thing you need to know about nightlife in mainland China, it’s that it is expensive -really expensive. In an average bar, beer costs around £2-3 a pint (which would be like spending €20 on a beer in an European bar), spirits can cost you double that and they don’t even give you the full can of coke. These prices are often too expensive for normal young Chinese people. I know of one guy who needs to work 4 hours to buy one pint of beer.
A lot of bars seem to insist that they have (terrible) live music and normally feature pool tables. My friends can’t play it enough and every time we go out, the night is spent around the table. Great for them but not so great if you’re not a pool player. They’re in awe of each other’s skills- even if it’s the 17th tournament of the week.
In Suzhou, Jiangsu, the club I go to most often charges entry, much like home in the UK, but to be honest, I have no idea how much it is. As a Westerner, you can just walk in. The crowd is usually 98/99% Chinese, so when a Westerner walks through the door, someone will always ask you to join them at their table and ply you with drinks as if you were friends forever. This is done partly to look good in front of everyone else. Keeping face is a national preoccupation and losing it is avoided at all costs. As long as you drink with them for a while and let them practice their English, they’ll let you escape.
KTV is a big deal here. These are private karaoke rooms where you go with your friends and then just… sing. But don’t be fooled, it’s taken very seriously here. I normally chose to drink through these experiences but my Chinese friends all sit patiently, waiting their turn. The main occupants of KTV bars are women. If you’re male, you can do almost anything you want, but if you’re a girl, there is a bit of a social stigma. There is a lot of cultural and social pressure on them to get married and have a child so many don’t drink. Instead, they go to KTV.
For even younger people, such as the teenagers I teach, nightlife doesn’t really exist. They are under a tremendous amount of pressure which extends way into university. They are extremely disciplined, and do ungodly amounts of homework that literally leave them with less than 7 or even 6 hours sleep. They are under so much pressure every day. Unless they manage to get into further education –and many don’t- they won’t be able to get a job that pays them enough to have a good life or experience the prohibitively expensive nightlife that their country has to offer.
Adamo Faccenda, 24, living in Sozhou, Jiangsu, China.