Secrets of Banquet with Shanghai Professors.

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On my final night at Shanghai’s East China University of Science and Technology I was treated to a banquet dinner. There was about 40 professors and students, and the professors came from other universities also such as Shanghai Fudan and Shanghai Jiao Tong universities which in the China system are like the Stanford’s and MIT’s in China. I was told to sit at a table next to the Dean. I hadn’t met him before so I asked the normal safe questions such as what are the schools departments, research, etc. Which I am sure he has been asked thousands of times before. The food started to come out and in typical Chinese styles it was an amazing banquet of many delicious foods. But what interested me is that everyone did a “cheers” to each other individually. So it was almost one hour of cheering. When people came to me I did click my glass and say cheers. But what I soon realized is that in Shanghai they have the custom to cheer lower than your glass (to show respect or friendship I guess). At first I didn’t realize but I soon figured it out. Basically you should try to do a cheers with your glass lower than the other. What was amusing is that I realized this led to “lowering glass escalation” and even when people were standing up they clinked their glasses together lower and lower below the hip in the attempt to be lower than the other person. I found this custom to be sweet and humble, I appreciate such humble style, even with these top professors, leaders in society. Next was something to me amazing. Suddenly one of the party, a university ab tech got up and started singing Italian opera – they said it was for me as I was a foreigner. Her singing was amazing and I felt so touched at this act of kindness. Please see the video I took of the lady singing. I had been to many Chinese banquet dinners in Singapore as part of delegations, visits to the university, some Ministerial dinners. Now I realize our visitors must have thought Singapore was so incredibly boring. Almost all the banquet dinners I attended to in Singapore were so quiet, dull, and frankly boring. I used to dread having to go to them, and I always couldn’t wait to leave. I wondered, Singapore culture derived from Chinese culture. How did it become so boring and sanitized? The banquet ended and everyone was warmly smiling and saying their farewell. I really appreciated the happy warmth of the people in Shanghai.