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300km of Liquor


Suzhou, July 6, 2013

After a high-cholesterol dinner in Nanjing, we set off the next morning for a drive towards Suzhou. Loaded with more cholesterol over the local breakfast of more pig jelly, pig inners and a huge bowl of noodle, it was kinda hard to keep oneself awake in the stormy weather as we hit the highway. There is not much to keep one entertained on a highway in any country, so my attention turns to the billboards alongside the road.

It is amazing how much billboards can tell you about a country, especially about the consumption habits of the locals. They could also give you an idea of who the aggressive advertisers are and whether they know how to use their advertising dollars. I’ve seen the same boring ad line up on both sides of a walkway every 1 meter in China and never seem to figure out how that helps. Maybe there is more RMBs in the budgets here than one could ever handle!

What do I learn about China on the way to Suzhou then? Without coincidence, billboards after billboards on both sides of the highway, one could not see anything else except horizontal ads of Chinese wine and liquor. And they all take the same approach. Product is always the hero, so a huge image of the bottle, a tagline that normally has something to do with the long Chinese heritage of thousands of years, spiced up by the name of the manufacturer’s and voilà, one is all set to go. I have to admit though, that the packaging of these wine and liquor products are quite diverse and attractive, from ancient Chinese looking ceramics to modern European looking glass bottles of all shapes and sizes.

I turn to my local friend and ask, “Why do you think there are nothing else but liquor ads along the road?”. Without a second of hesitation, Yibin responds, “Because of the liquor culture in China. Gifting means liquor. Getting together means liquor. Festivals mean liquor. Holiday means liquor.”

Upon memories of all my encounters in China, in actual fact, all do involve liquor consumption at various extents. Glasses are raised once again as we reach Suzhou for a local lunch. Here’s to all the livers in China!

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