Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Inside a 'Power Lunch'

When Chinese want to impress our clients or business partners, we usually take them to a private dining room, preferably at an expensive restaurant. Then we'll close the door and overwhelm our guests with numerous courses of delicacies and round after round of toasts with Chinese hard liquor known as baijiu, or white liquor.

A banquet is a business obligation in China, and Chinese believe it has to be conducted behind closed doors in order to establish a close business relationship. Case in point: Some restaurants in China only have private dining rooms. They've gotten rid of public dining space entirely.

But in my five years of living in the U.S., I've never had a meal in a private dining room. When I dine out with Americans, especially at hip restaurants, they often prefer tables close to the door -- the least-favorite spot for most Chinese. The reason: Americans want to see who's coming and who's going. And they want other people to see them as well.

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