Under-Age Drinking: China’s ‘Germanytown’

architecture germany bldgChinese friends generally say they had their first drink around age 9. There is no drinking age.

So in Qingdao, China, industrial city of 8 million (while teaching this summer at China Petroleum University), in the famous ‘Germanytown’ area, home to Tsingtao beer, I let my 13-year-old drink.
architecturegermany bldg 3Germany controlled this strategic port city , on the Yellow Sea, a quick ferry ride from Korea,  from about 1900 through the Second World War. They bequeathed their love of beer, visible in kegs stacked at every corner store. About 100 German stone mansions remain, many on winding, tree-lined, hilly seaside roads.

kegs in qingdao.qingdao on map2

Germans built the Tsingtao Beer brewery in 1903,  now (modernized) China’s top brewer & beer exporter (85% market share). Chinese tourists love Qingdao’s beach, cool sea breezes, beer and seafood (we avoided it–sadly…too much industrial effluence in these waters). About a year ago, the world’s longest over-sea bridge opened here (26 miles).architecture tsingtaotanksWhile historic Chinese vernacular architecture is constantly lost, (admittedly, it’s wooden), Qingdao preserves its German heritage (stone construction helps?). Maybe it’s an undue reverence for Western things.
architecturegermanmansion

Some are museums; some are hotels; some apparently are Party resorts, offices–holiday residences? We had wienerschnitzel at the one above, the largest, a museum.

architecturegermany bldg2architecture germany church2I mistakenly let my kid have a whole bottle of beer the first time. Insight: being 6’1″  will not keep a person who has no tolerance from getting way too drunk. I downgraded to a regular-size glass at a banquet with the dean, where he made a kind of awkward spectacle by going on and on about Ai Wei Wei. Then we moved to teeny tiny glasses, which works. I think it has successfully de-mystified beer.

kenny with a beer

architecturegermany bldg1

architecture germanycoastIn Qingao’s waves, they say, swimmers resemble dumplings floating in a pot. (The red at the water’s edge in the photo above is rocks, where people gather edible shellfish.)

architecture mr lis

This German building houses the omnipresent northeastern Chinese chain restaurant, Mr. Li’s (a Chinese-American version of the KFC ‘Colonel… I hear he lives in California). We find Mr. Li’s  food watery and bland, but love this building.

No beer for sale.

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Qingdao (Tsingtao) Summer

beer tsingtao roof tanks

We are here. Actually, a 40-minute, 30-cents bus ride away from downtown Qingdao, at China University of Petroleum (or Petroleum University of China…most things have several English names). But today we toured the brewery. It is ilike the most paradise thing ever for a 13-year-old to be allowed to have beer (not the whole mug). WE’re not sure, but we think among Tsingtao’s beers is a beer for kids.

beer drink kenny

Beer for Kids

Beer for Kids

beer old sign with swastika

And is the Swastika for Nazis…or Buddhism? In China it’s hard to be sure.

It’s interesting being in Shandong province, famous for being the home of more Party officials than anywhere else, and for having “tall people.” (True.) What I hadn’t understood is, and this university seems predominantly to be students from this province, is they are also BUFF.

Qingdao is also known for its lovely summer weather — always about 77 degrees, with a cool, delightful sea breeze blowing. We’re right on the water here. Yesterday was (apparently) the hottest day in decades — not sure, but it hit the 90s. So it was time for everyone to wash their blankets.

blankets drying2blankets drying