With the presence of dubious massage and KTV parlours, foreigners in China, or those that have visited China, often mistakenly assume that that these places are solely extensions of the sex industry. It is easy to pass off these venues - along with Chinese style bars - as brothels, but it just so happens that many of the girls working in these kinds of establishments are exactly what they are described as: hostesses, whose work is that of entertaining patrons of the bar or club in which they work. This article dives into the Chinese bar scene, exploring the role of the highly stigmatized hostesses and preparing you for what to expect in some these venues.
A Night Out on the Town
Because of the ever increasing disposable incomes of the Chinese middle class, people are more spoilt for choice when it comes to entertainment as well as being more discerning about their leisure pursuits. Also, contrary to popular western belief, Chinese like drinking and many Asian people can drink a lot, and pride themselves in being able to do so. For these reasons the service industry of Chinese style Bars and Clubs is coming on in leaps and bounds and these venues which are dismissed as being distasteful by some, are being overlooked – often undeservedly so.
What’s On Offer?
Many bars in China provide similar services to the hostess bars to be found in Japan. They offer the customer a chance to relax and unwind in a relaxing setting and spend the evening enjoying some chatting, games and perhaps a little harmless flirting with an articulate, well mannered, refined and warm young lady.
For some, the idea of paid company seems mechanical and rather an unnerving prospect. For some men – often a kind of pragmatic gentleman with limited time- the idea of paying for the services of a hostess is a bona fide leisure pursuit which cuts out some of the headaches and confusion which can arise when looking for company in the western style club scene.
Prices for the company of a lady in a Chinese bar are normally from 300 RMB-400 RMB upwards; customers at more exclusive clubs can expect to pay considerably more if the women are considered extremely delectable.
Zuotai or Chutai ladies - The choice is yours
In China’s Karaoke (KTV) and bar scene there are two kinds of hostesses. The first is Zuo Tai (坐台); these girls stay at the bar and they will chat with customers and play bar games such as cards and dice or they will sing songs. Often Zuotai girls are not prostitutes, have a lot of dignity and might be upset if they are propositioned in a clumsy or degrading manner.
Other girls are known as Chutai (出台) hostesses and they are involved in the same activities but are also able to leave the bar. These women sometimes earn from big tips given by customers and at times these tips are given by customers expecting sexual favours in return.
The type of hostess and what their job description and services provided vary wildly from venue to venue.
What’s a nice girl like you doing a place like this?
Actually, many of the ‘nice’ girls that work in KTV parlors and nightclubs are just that: nice girls. For many young women, in particular students, working at a bar is the ideal means for making ends meet ie. they are doing it to pay their way through lengthy four year undergrad courses. These are normally the ladies that are most in demand as they are both young and educated. There are no hard and fast rules for these types of women that work as hostesses in bars.
Others, often in less up market bars, are likely to work an unskilled day job which they supplement with work at a bar. Young ladies that do very well at their work in their bar, being popular with many customers, sometimes take a day job as a cover wanting to avoid the stigma attached to bar hostesses by more conservative acquaintances, friends and family members.
The unsavory side of the bar scene
When choosing a bar at which to enjoy the company of a hostess, its best to go to a reputable bar or KTV parlor. It is uncommon, but customers can sometimes unwittingly fall foul of scams. If you are solicited by people walking in a street of a bar district who are using phrases such as ‘hello sir! Lady bar?’ it is likely that there will be trouble ahead should you accept their hospitality. Such trouble will include ridiculously inflated drinks and fruit platter prices resulting in intimidation and threats of legal action or physical violence should the ‘customer’ fail to pay up.
Luckily the bar scene is by no means as sinister as many critics or skeptical foreigners would suggest it is, as tens of thousands of Chinese people that like to party hard on the weekend will attest. Just be safe and have fun!
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Keywords: hostesses China Chinese style bar and clubs Chinese hostesses bars and clubs
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