Going AA is the younger Chinese generation’s choice expression when going Dutch, ie; sharing equally the cost of meal, an unspecified number of alcoholic beverages, a karaoke suite, the list goes on!
Overall, the culture of hosting and covering the expense personally is still very popular. Outward impressions of generosity aside, people like to develop the feeling of ‘sentimental attachment,’ my way of translating the key word of 情(qing), a bond that a host develops or maintains with family, close friends, colleagues and clients.
The expression for hosting in this way is ‘Qing ke 请客’
How genuine such displays really are beneath the surface vary greatly, of course, from entirely heartfelt, to self ulterior motive. But, whatever the motives involved, a good host will see that all recipients of goodwill are well looked after and respected accordingly.
In the long term, the habit of entertaining usually evens out in the end. Take the example of birthdays. Come your turn, it may set you back considerably to invite everybody out for an evening’s worth of entertainment, but since most follow the same principle, you can expect similar gesture in return over time.
Locals might teach you the proverb 礼尚往来 (Li shang wang lai), one that captures this idea perfectly. ‘Courtesy demands reciprocity,’ or ‘give as good as one gets.’
I understand there are potential complexities with this that may be crossing your mind, but the good news is that only overseas spouses and perhaps those with business liaisons really need trouble themselves in an effort to play their part.
For the younger generations now, particularly students, going Dutch is de rigeur.
What Exactly is AA Zhi（制)?
In Chinese, there are a number of curious pseudo-English expressions that have somehow infiltrated the language nationally, but that nobody outside the country seems to have ever heard of, or even understand at first.
Interestingly, AA stands for ‘Algebraic average,’ meaning of course that the total expense of an activity is shared equally among the participants. The Chinese word ‘Zhi制’ means ‘System,’ or a way of doing things.
So, how do you understand whether a get-together is on the basis of ‘Qing ke’ or ‘AA zhi?’ Well, if the event is organised to celebrate a personal milestone, then the tradition is still to invite at one’s own expense, but an average evening’s entertainment is usually shared out.
Do be very aware that if you a dating a local woman, you must be prepared to host a few get-togethers with friends and individual family members, and generously paying the bill goes a considerably long way to making a positive and lasting impression.
Otherwise, Chongqing locals are known nationwide for their warm hospitality, so as a guest in the city, you need never fear being thrown in at the deep end.