The Quiz Itch: Drink and Think

The pub quiz culture may be familiar for some, but in China it is relatively still in its infancy. Nevertheless, expat generations alike seemingly cannot resist pitting their wits against others for glory and prizes. HERE! recently took a look into the growing trend of bar trivia in Dongguan. To the victor the spoils!

Having spent the vast majority of my youth watching game shows; and even appearing on one once, I was keen to find a venue that could test the grey matter in the Dongguan neighborhood. The first blip to show on my radar a few years back was ‘Irene’s bar’ in Houjie. With its laid-back atmosphere and format, I must admit I still insist on adjusting my work schedule around their weekly Wednesday night revelry. The quizmaster is usually co-owner Marcus, who possesses very strong sports and music knowledge, but he will open the floor to any regular that is willing to have a stab at hosting.

I personally spearheaded my first quiz night there around two years ago and soon realized it is not as easy as it looks! Firstly, there is a lot of preparation involved, even though these days printouts are becoming obsolete and the questions tend to be shown on a big screen, it still takes time devising rounds and researching answers. I quickly discovered a quizmaster also needs to be prepared for hecklers and be super confident with facts when challenged on answers. Irene’s offers a first-place prize of a bottle of vodka or a tower of beer for the winning team.

More recently I became privy to the regular quiz night in ‘Murray’s Irish Pub’ of Dongcheng which, like Irene’s, takes place every Wednesday at 9 pm. I must say I felt the quiz there was a bit more serious than what I was accustomed to in Houjie and was fortunate to find myself on the team of seasoned champs known as “Toast.” Prizes are offered for 1st, 2nd and 3rd with an impressive bottle of Jameson for the victors. Quizmasters in Murray’s rotate around a core team of four colleagues who initially began the regular trivia nights around 18 months back.

I quickly discovered a quizmaster also needs to be prepared for hecklers and be super confident with facts when challenged on answers.

Also situated in Dongcheng, ‘One for the Road’ frequently gets in on the quiz action, generally holding their quizzes at 7:30 pm on Mondays, fortnightly. OFTR’s “Einsteins” have a slightly different format where the winner of each round receives beer, followed by prizes for the top three overall winners; courtesy of the brewery in conjunction with running the quiz nights.

Other venues getting involved are ‘Ziggy’s’ in Chang’an and ‘Treehouse’ in Batou. Ziggy’s hosts an entertaining movie quiz every Wednesday, using to select Hollywood actors and actresses, before teams reel off what they think are the top four movies they have starred in, and information based around that to win points. On the other hand, Treehouse hold theirs once per month and have a 50 RMB contestant fee for an enticing winner-takes-all pot.

Quiz formats vary slightly from place to place but generically stick to the same script. Usually about six rounds consisting of anything from general knowledge to whatever the quizmaster fancies pitching. Music and picture rounds are quite common for breaking up the monotony of staring at countless lists of questions. Who wants that after all? Variants include ‘wipeout’ and ‘joker’ rounds, where all points in a round may be lost for a wrong answer, or double points being awarded for specific categories chosen by individual teams.

Nowadays when hosting, I tend to sex up my quizzes with slightly more obscure activity. I often like to have drawing rounds, where the team has to draw selected objects that are then assessed by an impartial judge. I once did a beer tasting round, which needless to say went down well (pun intended). Other than that, I once tried a ‘scratch and sniff round,’ where I actually took some perfume testing strips from an airport duty free and sprayed them with various fragrances, before putting them in a sealed bag to bring back for the quizzers to guess; I received some strange looks that day!

Ultimately quiz nights are all about competitive fun with a hint of good-natured banter. It is a nice excuse to team up with friends old or new and sometimes bring a new-found sense of comradery to achieve a cumulative goal. For me it’s always about learning new things and testing the limits of my own knowledge, regardless of how useless it may actually be. One thing is for certain, quiz nights are becoming more and more popular in China and it may not actually be too long before we see the locals jumping on the bandwagon. Watch this space.