Tag Archives: Inner Mongolia wedding

The Theme (Part I’ve Lost Count) – Wedding Planner Joys

Yes, you read correctly. For one time in my life I actually have something positive to say about wedding planners in Hohhot. Over the 1st May weekend Mr.Li was on a short stopover in his hometown, as he is currently moving to the Southern city of Shenzhen, with beaches and coconuts. I am so, so, so jealous!

During his stay he went to see the infamous wedding company for me, bless him. The company switched the wedding planner from my previous one, who would definitely have won the award for “most incompetent employee of the universe” to a new and energetic consultant.

She is simply and truly fabulous. Not only was she working on 1st May, technically a public holiday, afterwards I added her WeChat at 10pm at night and she promptly accepted and even started chatting with me until I told her to please stop working this late on a Friday. I had another message in my inbox on Saturday at 7am – no kidding! She polished off an entire proposal on Saturday, and sent me my bridal homework, a very detailed questionnaire about my relationship and my person, felt like I was back at high school having to do my homework, haha, luckily no grades for this one. On Sunday, she went to check out the wedding location and get a feel for it. I am not even sure whether she sleeps and eats, she just seems to be available and switched on constantly. She is the Duracell Wedding Planner Bunny. It is another example of how China is a country of extremes; either you get Ms Whoops-proposal-is-three-days-late, (and I am sorry dear, but you won’t be able to be three days late on the wedding), or you get this amazing girl, who obviously lives for her work. She is also not pushy at all, if I don’t contact her for a few days, she will leave me alone – motivated but not overboard.

In terms of the theme, things have also come together in the most incredible way. After aaaall of the drama with Mr.Li insisting we could not do the Old Shanghai Theme, guess what? We are doing an Old Shanghai Theme. Whooohooo, victory dance. I am ECSTATIC. A number of great coincidences came together to change his mind. For one, when we took the engagement photos a few weeks ago, he remarked on how he thought the Old Shanghai look suited me really well and was actually the look he preferred. Number two, after telling the wedding company the idea for our UK vintage theme (which was really Old Shanghai with some Union Jacks chucked in there for good measure) with a grey-blue and Bordeaux colour scheme, they came back to us saying they could do this colour scheme but it would cost us thousands and thousands of RMB because they did not have that colour in stock. They then sent us their colour palette, which was met with hysterical laughter on both my part and my friend’s who I was visiting at the time. Here it is in all its glory.

Colour scheme wedding Inner Mongolia company

Luckily I was just coming from a Chinese massage, all relaxed, otherwise I would have had another mental breakdown. As it was, my friend and me just exploded into giggle fits, and I was glad she was there and not Mr.Li, who once again might not have understood what I was being so fussy about. As it stands, my three-year old self could have come up with a more professional colour palette than that.

The girl previously known as my wedding planner had at least managed to copy the proposal for the Old Shanghai wedding they had organised three months earlier and sent it through, all in red and white. China and Western traditional wedding colours combined. It was perfect! And when Mr.Li realised this theme meant we did not have to pay extra, he was so on board. So now, in an unbelievable twist of luck and fate, I get my Old Shanghai wedding after all. I’m such a lucky b*¥;P.

hohhot inner mongolia old shanghai style wedding

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The Venue (Part 1) – Hijackers and Hostages

Inner Mongolia wedding venue
As mentioned earlier, my German self was struggling considerably with the Chinese approach to organising, yet through persistent nagging I finally managed to convince Mr. Li and MiL that we needed to find a wedding venue.

Truth be told, the main holdup was a rather personal issue surrounding the attendance of Mr.Li’s father; since the parents are divorced and Mr.Li’s relationship with Mr. Li senior is frosty to say the least, this was a whole other can of worms. But that is for another post.

Once MiL got down to it, there were three wedding venue contenders, the Shangri-La Chinese luxury hotel chain, the Sheraton Western hotel and the Inner Mongolia hotel (the Chinese concept of face dictates that we have to get married in the most expensive location possible to impress the wife of the boss of the cousin twice removed, or something or other). Mr. Li and I initially both agreed on the Inner Mongolia hotel as our favourite option, since it has character with Mongolian elements in the decoration. We felt that particularly our guests from abroad would enjoy the “local flavour”. Great, wedding venue settled. Or so I thought. I even got so cocky as to design and send out wedding invitations to all and sundry proudly announcing our special day at the Inner Mongolia hotel. What a fool. I never learn.

I had not taken into account that this is a five-star hotel, which obviously feels it is above everyone else and therefore can make its own rules. When my poor MiL went back to book the venue last week, the hotel manager informed her that if we wanted to have the wedding in their hotel, we would HAVE TO use their in-house wedding company. She insisted that we could not bring in an external wedding company.

Now this did not go down well with me at all for two reasons; a) my MiL had through careful WeChat watching of a local wedding photographer’s account found an absolutely fabulous wedding company (their décor was just the right mix of tacky and class in my eyes, but what sold me where the penis cakes that were randomly draped on the middle of the wedding display, oh how I would have loved to seen the guests reaction), so the thought of my being forced to give up said great company was not one I enjoyed, and b) I generally think it is scandalous for a wedding location to hijack someone’s wedding like that. I would like decide on my own what company shall get the task of decorating my wedding, thank you very much. I personally absolutely despise people trying to tell me what to do, ask my Mum or Mr.Li and they will tell you that if you order me to do something I will most probably not do it just out of principle. I’m such a grown up. Hence you can imagine how the Inner Mongolia Hotel’s policy resonated with my anti-authoritarian self.

Now I thought that I should at least give it a try. After all it would be silly to lose the venue if the wedding company was good. So I got in touch with them; and it all just went downhill from there. After repeatedly asking the manager whether they could do an Old Shanghai Theme, which I had my heart set on, he sent me a few images off the internet and I confirmed this was the style I wanted, yet he still did not answer my question. Once more I asked: “So can you do this style?” You will not believe the reply I received.

“I will tell you once you have booked the Inner Mongolia hotel.” This was the response. I was FUMING. Lucky for this man I was talking to him through a virtual channel; had I been in the same room, who knows what would have happened. So, not only is the hotel blackmailing me into using their internal company, now the wedding company is holding my theme hostage? That was the moment I knew the Inner Mongolia hotel had just lost my custom henceforth and until the end of time.

Ironically, I spoke to the wedding company that I liked and told them of my plight, and their immediate response was that this rule was nonsense and that they had already organised weddings in the Inner Mongolia hotel. However, this is another interesting Chinese business model that some high-end hotels including the Shangri-La and now the IM Hotel employ. You can use an external wedding agency, but you have to pay an extra service charge to do so. The wedding company also takes a cut from the fee and so everyone except the happy couple wins. By telling us that we were not allowed to use an external company, the IM Hotel was pushing up the stakes, making sure we would be so desperate as to pay any fee they asked for if we wanted to use an external planner. However, they forgot to consider the fact that I am a thick-headed German who would rather celebrate her wedding in McDonalds before bowing down to such shameful schemes. So the search for a new wedding venue continued…

…and ended the next morning when MiL went to check out the botanical gardens. The location is absolutely stunning, with plants everywhere and glass ceilings for natural lighting. What more could you want in a venue? Even objectively speaking I would have preferred this location to the IM hotel but in light of their behaviour and the fact that the gardens allow external wedding companies without additional fee, this victory is even sweeter.

After deciding on the botanical gardens, I was incredibly elated. I immediately thought of a Chinese motto that Mr. Li often recites in hard times. There is a balance in the universe. If you are experiencing a lot of bad luck, some time in the future you will have a lot of good luck to make up for it, so you can take solace in hard times. When you are experiencing incredibly good luck, you should treasure it and be aware that it won’t last forever, as there is always the balance. I find this saying very encouraging. It sums up the calm that I have experienced among many Chinese people in the face of problems. Where I get upset and very quickly work myself into a frenzy about external circumstances, Mr. Li and MiL are particularly calm and composed, even optimistic. I envy them a lot for that ability. In the meantime though I am enjoying my minor venue victory. Cheers to that!

Jet-Set Wedding (Part 6) – Inner Mongolia and the Rest of China

Inner Mongolia weddingAnd so it was done. We were officially married; well in the province of Inner Mongolia that is. You see, since Chinese administration is largely decentralised, Jiangsu province has no clue whatsoever what those people up in Beijing or Hohhot are up to and vice versa. In terms of our little wedding booklets, that means they are not valid in other parts of China but need to be notarized by the notary office so that we are legally married in the rest of the country, further proving my point that a province in China might as well be an independent country.

This idea is further enforced by the fact that our little booklets are bilingual, featuring both Chinese and Mongolian characters. I could not be happier about this, I mean not many people get to say they have a wedding booklet with Mongolian on it! The sad truth is of course that this is mostly for show; while most parts of Inner Mongolia feature bilingual signage and documents, barely anyone is able to read it anymore. Even the spoken language is finding less and less regular use on a daily basis, as an increasingly shrinking pool of “pure blood Mongolians” exist in the province. In Inner Mongolia, the Chinese government has pretty much succeeded where it has not in Xinjiang. While Mongolian tradition is being kept alive in the grasslands as a means of making money on tourism, the Han assimilation in cities is pretty much complete. Much like the Roman empire did in the past, the Chinese government’s strategy after claiming territorities inhabited by non-Han people has been to settle Han Chinese in this region in the hopes of the local people mingling with their new rulers, ending in a peaceful acceptance of their presence. Much like Greek gods have found their way into Roman mythology, the presence of the Mongolian scripture suggests at least a slight tip of the hat to the original inhabitants of the region. While a small group of nationalistic Mongolians, who communicate in their native tongue most of the time, do exist, in a majority of cases, both cultures have mingled and now tolerate each other’s presence. One of Mr. Li’s relatives by marriage is Mongolian, yet the only time when he truly shows that he is any different is when he sings Mongolian songs to much applause of the listeners; Mongolian culture seems to have become something special to be marvelled at possibly due to its near extinction rather than remaining a major part of this region’s culture.

On one of my flights back from Hohhot I struck up a conversation with my seat neighbour, a young girl who as it turned out was of Mongolian descent. In truth, except for the little character on her ID card, which under the category “people” says 蒙 where it normally reads 汉 one could barely tell. She could understand the Mongolian language, yet was unable to speak it. Especially since she worked in Shenzhen, where Mandarin or Cantonese are the common languages of communication, she now barely uses her second language. She is one of many young people who move into big cities in hopes of better work opportunities, unwittingly aiding the loss of her native culture.

While the positive side to this is that Inner Mongolia is a relatively peaceful province compared to Xinjiang, it does come at the slow loss of a culture. Calling IM entirely peaceful is not entirely truthful either, in 2011 unrests occurred when in the first instance a Mongol herdsman was run over by a Han truck driver. However, the government was eager to make concessions, affording the family damages and sentencing the driver to death. Last year’s altercation involved the detainment of protesting herdsmen, who are seeing their lifestyle encroached upon as their lands are grabbed by Han forestry and mining companies and attempts by the government to persuade them into settling in one location. To a nomad people, this is unthinkable, and has led to discontentment around the fact that their traditional life style is not being respected. That being said, Xinjiang provincs is far less stable, with clashes between Uighur and Han people occurring on a regular basis and even terrorist activities such as the train station knife attack in Kunming in 2014 and the Tian’anmen Square incident in 2013 taking the conflict outside of the region.

Hohhot, as the capital of Inner Mongolia, is very similar to most other Chinese cities, except for the aforementioned bilingual signage. Interestingly, many people do not seem to think so, as when I or Mr.Li tell people of his origins, you would be surprised how often they inquire in ernest whether he grew up in a yurt and how many ponies and sheep his family owns, while obviously wondering simultaneouslt how his family managed to afford to send him abroad for studies. In conversation with Chinese people, though, the reaction is rather different. Upon hearing my partner is from Hohhot, the first question is whether he is Mongolian. When I respond that he is Han, many say “Oh, of course, the Han are rich in Inner Mongolia.” Well, that explains everything, doesn’t it?

Somehow I feel I have slightly departed from the topic. Long story short, we had to get our certificate notarized; but not before we stood in the middle of the street and popped open our celebratory Italian sparkling wine and got our afternoon buzz on. The effect was only increased by the fact that MiL and her partner were waiting in the car and so to the slightly astonished and confused looks of some construction workers, Mr. Li and I chugged the red liquor as if there were no tomorrow.

Jet-Set Wedding (Part 3) – Part-time Bureaucrats and the King of Pandas

Restaurant Inner Mongolia

After we managed to acquire our translation, we were off to the registry office. Since I am a foreigner, said office is not just the regular registry office but instead a “special one” across town. We found out just how special it was when we arrived to find that the registrar was not there. Mr Li’s mother had been trying to contact the kind sir since Saturday to no avail and repeated calls to his office on Monday morning while we were getting our stuff done were of course to no more successful. His colleagues tried to appease us by informing us that due to the fact that about only 50 marriages between foreigners and Hohhotians take place a year, the registrar worked on a part-time basis and was currently “in the countryside”, which is probably code for sitting at home drinking tea doing absolutely nothing at all.

I think the question I ask myself most whenever I deal with bureaucratic entities in China is how on earth this country still keeps running considering no one in the administration actually ever does any work. Then again, it is probably necessary for them to be Lazy Larrys so that they can employ five people to reach the productivity rate of one regular person, in order to keep everyone employed and unemployment rate up.

After calling the Prince of Pandas, as he shall henceforth be known, he suggested we come back at 4.30 since he, and I quote, “might be around then.” But, you know, he couldn’t be sure of course, and it wasn’t like we had a plane to catch. A call to his supervisor though seemed to take care of the small issue of when he would bring his derriere into work, thus we were given an appointment at 2.30pm and left the building accompanied by a lot of swearing on my part. To my German genes, these situations are infuriating to say the least, and it is all I can do to keep myself from getting physical. With regards to our new appointment we were told to be absolutely on time, since the registrar had to leave at 3pm for another appointment (read more tea slurping, maybe some TV or card games).

So, in the meantime, there was nothing much we could do except go for a delicious lunch at a nearby Mongolian restaurant. I consider myself incredibly lucky insofar as I am a massive fan of lamb meat, or a lamb fan, and Mongolia is to lamb as Germany is to sausages. We had a most heavenly lunch of oven-roasted lamb and stewed lamb with glass noodles and Sauerkraut, which for some strange reason is identical to German Sauerkraut. A frequent subject of speculation between Mr.Li and I is how the Kraut ended up in two countries so far apart and which country had it first.

To my utter surprise, I even managed to not get any grease or sauce all over my dress (you would be just as astonished if you know of my unique talent to get food everywhere while I eat except in my mouth, apparently, like a toddler just with slightly longer arms).

I also steered clear of the Mongolian milk tea; for some strange reason, people in these parts of the world think it is a great idea to add salt instead of sugar to said beverage; a concept, which I with my bourgeois European taste buds simply cannot accept.

After posing for some slightly surreal pictures in my German dirndl and Mr.Li in his black suit in a Mongolian restaurant, it was time for our next quest; celebratory alcohol!

Jet-Set Wedding (Part 2) – Translator by Name, not by Profession

Wedding pictures Inner Mongolia

So, finally on Monday the 9th of February we found ourselves in Hohhot with the document from the German embassy and we were in for a busy day.

After putting on my dirndl, traditional German (or to be correct, Bavarian and Austrian) attire, which I thought might be a fun thing to do when getting married in Inner Mongolia, we rushed off to the local photographer.

There we got the picture for our little red wedding booklets taken; a picture of the both of us with a red background. The end result was subjected to our critical review with the conclusion that I have a strand of hair sticking out and Mr. Li looks rather stern and serious; which I felt was rather appropriate considering he is getting married to a German (who nevertheless cannot even do her hair in the correct fashion on her wedding day).

After our session in the non-too glamorous studio, we scooted over to the translator’s office, a bleak little windowless room at the backside of an old building. This was yet another entertaining experience, as the translator, who had been recommended by the authorities as the go-to person for notarized translations in the city, was about as qualified to do the job as a loaf of bread. The good man used a template to transcribe the contents from my German document to the Chinese one, guessing which information belonged where. In the end, I sat down with him and did most of my own translation, including finding the Chinese transliteration of the town I am registered in. Since official Chinese documents still rely for the most part on Chinese characters, any city in the world has a phonetically similar Chinese name, which in our case, due to its length and complexity turned out to be 凯塞尔斯图尔山麓恩丁根.

As a former student of the translation department of the University of Vienna, this encounter really rattled me. I remember only too well the many lectures discussing the lack of regulation in the translation industry and how anyone who speaks two languages can run around calling themselves translators and be paid for it. Add to that rampant corruption as it is still present throughout China, in particular in the less central and urbanised regions such as Hohhot, on a daily basis despite Mr. Xi’s clean-up campaign, the truth of the matter is that this so-called translator quite probably paid some money in order to get his recognition as a notary translator. Said certificate was from 1998 nonetheless, which should not be concerning as such; except of course for the fact that this man could barely even use Microsoft Word. Such translation standards are indeed concerning, even more so as they are present throughout China. Even in Nanjing the standards of professional translation companies are disconcertingly low. On the other hand this might of course present a business opportunity, if one were to pass their official exam (or purchase one, after all if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, harr harr).
Anyway, with our combined efforts we got there and paid the money really just for his little red stamp than any actual translation work on his part; yet, I shouldn’t complain, as we managed to get what we needed. Really, if I want to raise the standard of translation in this country, I should probably run a translating company. Now there’s a thought…

The Bureaucracy (Part 2) – Towel brain, legalese and endurance

International wedding bureaucracy

“This is a lot easier than I thought it would be” I knew the instant the thought flashed through my mind that I was kidding myself and sure enough…

The countless horror stories on German forums I had read should have been a warning, they should have prepared me for certain failure and yet, I was naive enough to hope that my case would be different, that somehow through a miracle, we would make it through the jungle of bureaucracy and come out the other side unscathed and married.

So, after I described in the first post of this series, I had done some research and found out which documents Mr. Li was going to need in order for me to apply for my certificate of nubility.

After scrolling for hours and hours through even the last corners of the German embassy website and going through a number of documents in legalese that twisted my brain so much, it resembled a wrung-out towel, the conclusion I came to was that if we asked the German registry office about what was needed, they would know (after all the embassy website in China said to check with them for local variances in the requirements).

My mother went to the registrar in Germany and was told about the four documents and that they had to be translated in Germany by a certified translator. That, according to them, was it. After Mr. Li’s mother used her connections to get the usually impossible to get birth certificate and all the other documents, she sent it to me and I DHL’d it to my mother in Germany (I figured the only ones I can trust to deliver documents to Germany and not lose on the way is a German company, right?). My mother received them and brought them to a certified translator, who took her time and 170€ to write up the German versions. Then my mother dragged the documents to the registry office, where, because the colleague my mother had been in touch with was on holiday, they lay around for a week.

At this point it was mid-December, I was set to go to Germany in one week, during which time I was supposed to get my certificate. After all it’s not like Germany is just around the corner and I can’t pop by just anytime I feel like it.

Thursday afternoon my mother gets a call.

“These documents are not valid,”

the lady who has just returned from her relaxing holiday tells her.

“They have to be legalized by the German embassy in Beijing.”

Thank you lady on a holiday, you just ruined my entire family’s Christmas. In all fairness, my parents live in the tiniest town in the South of Germany, where international weddings are a rare thing and so these people usually do not have to deal with all the rules and regulations involved in a Germano-international marriage. So, who can I blame; as obviously I wouldn’t want to blame myself? Let’s blame the government and their stupid, stupid rules.

So after we found out that we had wasted valuable time, we were trying to figure out what exactly it was we had to do. Because getting Chinese documents legalized might sound easy in theory. In practice, it really isn’t.

What the embassy legalize is in fact merely the signature of Mr. Li and of the person who issued the official documents. Furthermore, they do not legalize original documents but only notarized copies that have been stamped and translated into German (or English, I hope; we will have to send an email as the embassies NEVER answer the phone and pray for a response).

So, once we have issued notarized copies of the original documents in Hohhot and sent them from Inner Mongolia to Beijing, Mr.Li has to run to the embassy to get them legalized; this means taking a day off work and losing that day’s salary, as his company is run by Ebenezer Scrooge.

Once he has gone through this process, he has to send the documents to my parents’ in Germany and then we can only pray that we don’t need to get them translated in Germany again. Otherwise, I might just get violent.

We were debating whether to send the original documents my mother had back to Hohhot for Mr.Li’s mother to get the notarized copies; however we also found out that the documents are only valid for 3 months and the birth certificate runs out on 10th January. Hardly enough time with all the running back and forth that is involved.

Also, the original documents had been signed by the translator to prove their authenticity and the translations stapled to the back, ruining them for any official purposes in China.

So, now my poor future mother-in-law (well, if we ever get through all this a nonsense anyway) has to do the whole thing again; including using her connections at the hospital to get the birth certificate, they are technically not allowed to issue.

A not so global village – making international marriage as impossible as possible

This experience of bureaucratic hell just makes me think how ironic it is that every day we speak about how small the world is becoming and how international borders are breaking down and all the “one world, one love” prophecies and how far from the truth this is in relation to our legal situation.

I understand that there need to be laws in place to ensure a person cannot marry as many people as they want in different countries or simply marry for visa purposes, but I think that current laws in Germany are just absolutely outdated and unreasonable.

I mean I already commented on the irony that to get my certificate of nubility I need to get Mr.Li’s – so what if the Chinese said the same. But overall this whole jumping through hoops is just absolutely over the top in my opinion. There is a very vivid German idiom that describes perfectly what we are currently going through:

“It’s as if someone is laying stones in our way”

to make things as difficult as possible. Well, to be honest, I feel as if I am drowning in a sea of stones (ah, so melodramatic).

But let’s be serious, my mother told me of a Russian-German couple that went through the same hassle and in the end just gave up and didn’t get married because it was just not worth it. A German-Chinese couple in my parent’s town had the same problems we did with the three month validity and also had to get the documents issued a second time before succeeding. Luckily, my mum is a tough cookie and a challenge such as this will only make her more determined to beat the system and get me that bloody certificate (I was just about ready to call the whole thing off when she told me).

The thing that irks me the most though, aside from this ridiculous labyrinth of legal ludicrousness, is the fact that a couple of weeks ago I spoke to a young guy from Australia who told me that after going through all the motions to get the certificate, when he got married to a young Chinese girl in Nanjing, they didn’t even need the silly piece of paper at all. Sadly the Inner Mongolians, where we need to get married due to Mr. Li’s hukou, insist on the certificate.

While again there is always the possibility of bribing them to turn a blind eye, we do want to one day return to Europe and it might get a little awkward explaining to German authorities how we have a marriage certificate without them ever having issued a certificate of nubility for me. Yes, they are that organized they would know. In conclusion, no corrupt wedding for us.

The one lesson I have learned from this is to never trust anyone who gives you “official” information as probably they have absolutely no clue what the heck they are doing. Oh yes, and that my mum is awesome, but I knew that already.

In honour of this painful procedure and hopefully to help any of you, who are facing the same issues, to not fall in the German legal trap, I plan on making a little infographic, which will hopefully help you to not make the same mistakes we did (once I know for certain how this whole confusions process works). If you are facing the paper wars as well, good luck!

Here’s to showing those bureaucratic buggers that they can never stop a determined English woman and her Chinese in-laws.

Drink till Death; Differences between Northern and Southern Chinese Weddings

China baijiu official banquetChina is such a vast and diverse country, where one province could be seen as its own nation. Therefore, rather unsurprisingly, wedding ceremonies are just as diverse, especially considering the 55 minorities that inhabit China, all with their very own traditions. From a more simplistic point of view, China is often divided by its own people into North and South. In my case that is rather convenient as I was a bridesmaid for my friend in the South and will be wed in the North.

While the list is certainly more exhaustive than the few examples below (I strive to expand it when THE DAY comes), find herein a few differences that I am currently aware of after conversation with Mr. Li.

1. The Time
The most major difference, and for me personally the most terrible news, is the time. The main ceremony is held in the evening in the Southern parts of the country; while the Northerners have the grand ceremony at lunch time. This means that all the preparations, the groom picking up the bride, visiting the couple’s house and the public ceremony need to take place in half a day, as opposed to a whole one. It also means that it is not uncommon for the bride and her consortium to have to get up at 4.30am. I can’t even imagine waking up at such an ungodly hour, I am considering instead just staying up all night and to stay awake by drinking unreasonable amounts of alcohol; either way my brain capacity is going to be about the same in each case. Also, my eyes are going to be puffy. I will be a bridezilla in terms of looks, that’s for sure, let’s hope My mood won’t match my looks. I am already wondering whether me and bridesmaids can go on strike until we are allowed a reasonable time to wake up.

2. The Tea
One part of the ceremony which seems to be specific to the South is the tea drinking. When I mentioned that both sides’ parents were served tea, upon which the couple said “Mum, Dad, please drink tea” to Mr.Li, he had never heard of this custom. One could think this represents the fact that the Southerners are civilized tea drinkers, whereas Inner Mongolians…well, let’s not jump to conclusions.

3. The Pick-Up
Yet, this was exactly the conclusion I arrived at after hearing Mr.Li’s description of his cousin picking up the bride at his wedding. As best man, Mr.Li had to force his way into the brides quarters and later make sure his cousin could bring the bride to the car. However, there seemed to have been a lot of pushing and shoving involved, culminating in Mr.Li picking up one of the bridesmaids, who had sat in the wedding car in an attempt to obstruct the groom, and dragging the young woman out of the vehicle. With this expectation I went into my friend’s wedding ready for battle, but there was no tugging, no pulling and not even shouting, just a rather calm exchange of red envelopes. Maybe this means we didn’t do our jobs well enough, or it means that the jokes and rumors about rough Northerners are true. I leave it up to your judgment.

Also, as you already might have deducted, in the Northern wedding it was the cousin who carried his own bride to the car, while in the Southern wedding it was the bride’s uncle. While I am not exactly sure why this is the case, it is probably more reasonable to do it the Inner Mongolian way, after all we don’t want to strain uncle’s back. More importantly, if you want a bride, you should have to work for it.

4. The Alcohol
The final difference is probably the one with the most severe consequences; the social drinking. The standing phrase 劝酒, which literally means to urge somebody to drink, is a custom especially at weddings in which particularly Chinese males encourage (or force, depending on your point of view) each other to drink alcohol as a sign of showing respect and giving face. In traditional Chinese culture it is considered rude not to drink if someone toasts you (which usually happens every time they take a sip, so every few minutes). In fact, people who want to drink alcohol will often toast you just to have an excuse to drink; a dangerous game for all involved. If one does not want to drink, it is common to offer up some excuses, therefore it is not unusual to hear a Chinese person say that they are allergic to alcohol, or if they are a girl, it might be “that time of the month” during which of course alcohol intake, aside from cold foods and drinks, is strictly prohibited.

However, a major difference between North and South is that the former are infamous for their 劝酒 habits, I.e. they won’t take no for an answer and might drink you into a coma if you are not careful. Now, while it is of course not PC at all to generalize on such a scale, the Inner Mongolians are particularly infamous for their drinking habits and from what I have seen so far, I am afraid they are not so far-fetched. Mr. Li’s uncle “forced” him to drink until the poor boy threw up during Chinese New Year and his own son developed a severe case of pancreatitis after a particularly heavy drinking session. This is one of the reasons I am already a little worried, not only for my own sake, but for me Mr. Li’s due to the 喜酒 practice, the drinking of happy alcohol which I described in an earlier post. I personally am going to see to it that my glass is filled with Martini instead of Baijiu. After all, as long as I am on my own toxic turf, I can take on those Inner Mongolians without any problem (well, that’s what I tell myself before I sleep at night).

Those are, for now, all the differences I have spotted, yet I am convinced there will be many more and hopefully I will manage to spot them when the time comes.