Convenience Store Drinking in China

Go ahead. I dare you. Crack open a beer at a 7/11 in the US after dark and see what happens. You will certainly get dirty looks and definitely won’t be viewed with any sort of normalcy.

Now take that habit to China, and this article would never be a thing. In the Middle Kingdom, drinking at convenience stores or in places that aren’t bars is generally okay. Certainly this doesn’t mean go double fisting cheap beer through a park in broad daylight; that will generate a few spiteful looks.

It does mean that having some beers outside any 7/11 or any knockoff thereof will be 100% normal. There might be several reasons for this, the foremost being price. The market situation is the exact same as in Western countries and perhaps everywhere on earth. Beers in a bar are more expensive than beers in a store.

For a beer in a bar, you’re paying a markup for the experience (of apparently being in a shitty bar). For a beer at a convenience store, you’re paying nothing for the wonderful knowhow gained from cracking open a Tsingtao on some dirty plastic furniture under a tattered umbrella.

Further, in China, a lot of Western customs are obviously just out the window – it’s a different place. The obvious one in regards to this article is that drinking at a “low class” place like 7/11 is just fine. Nobody cares really since you’re drinking at a venue and not a public spot. You’re being responsible, as opposed to drinking in a park.

The second is the whole view of convenience stores in Asia in general. The are absolutely ubiquitous, especially in cities. And instead of serving low-quality hotdogs, they serve generally satisfying low-cost food. In Japan, it’s onigiri and noodles. In China, it’s steamed buns and fish balls. In any case, it’s much, much healthier than the American counterpart.

7/11’s aren’t view as low class in status and quality; they are viewed as reasonable options for many dining needs. They are viewed as a passable meeting point.

And the third is also the perception of bars by the Chinese. A lot of “normal” Western products and ideas are just catching on in China, while others never will. Certainly, the idea of a location where one can consume alcohol is not solely a Western concept. That being said, themed Western-style bars which serve as a meeting place with random table games and live music and sports and so on is certainly somewhat novel.

In bigger cities, these types of places are catching on; however even a few years ago in smaller cities, it seemed as if these bars were far and few between. They were super expensive compared to the alternative of just going to 7/11. You can pay 50RMB at a bar or 5RMB at a convenience store. (almost $8 compared to $1.)

In any case, it’s pretty normal to do. But beyond just being an acceptable form of drinking, it’s a great form of socializing too. For many Chinese friends of mine, they were incredibly loathe to shell out cash at a bar, when we could just go to a barbecue or go to a 7/11 knockoff.

I’ve met numerous Chinese friends in this manner, and at the end of the day, that’s what being abroad was about for me: meeting as many locals, partaking in their culture, and doing as much as the Romans do…in China at a 7/11.


Let me know what you think in the comments below! Is it acceptable to drink at Chinese convenience stores or have I read their status in wrong??

Like what you’re reading on China? Check out some other related articles in: The China Chronicles!!

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