Men and women, dressed in the latest fashions, swinging their hips, pumping their arms, shuffling their feet, try to impress one another. Usually, this image is accompanied by sounds of the Billboard Top 40 or the latest techno thumping from the speakers. But I was curious, was this merely a Western picture of clubbing? Was clubbing in China different from clubbing in other countries?
I needed to go out on the biggest club night of the week - Saturday - to find the answer. My anticipation built over the course of the day, as I half expected the club to be similar to those in the United States, half hoped for something drastically different.
After paying the cover, I entered the party where I was greeted with techno blaring from the speakers, so loud you had to yell in someone's ear to communicate with them. This was like the American clubs.
I meandered down toward the mass of people moving to the music. But at the first step, my leg wobbled and I quickly put down my second foot to stabilize myself. Never before had I seen a surface like this: The floor was supported by a series of hydraulics, which bumped to the bass of the music.
It was like walking on ice: You are unsure and slip around before you get used to it and take smaller steps to gain balance. My Chinese friends laughed at me - they knew what to expect.
Soon the headlining DJ Gareth Emery began spinning his set. Pushing our way to the center of the dance floor, I found the place packed with expat kids between 14 and 18, wearing Yankee's hats, polos or "I love NY" shirts, dancing in large circles.
Scattered in between were Chinese in their 20s. Outnumbering these were older Chinese men who stood around the edges of the dance floor and on the balcony with tables, upstairs.
Throughout the club, Asian mullets frosted with red or blond tips were spotted next to blond and brown mops of hair worn by the expat kids. The older Chinese were either balding or outfitted with neat and trim cuts.
Almost no one seemed to be a good dancer, including myself. But the worst dancers, by far, were the old men who bopped up and down only bending their knees. Never before had I seen faces of those who had just hit puberty next to men whose faces looked like the pleats on the young people's khakis.
Hot and sweaty, I stepped outside for air. Before I got a chance to reflect on my first night out in Beijing, a group of expat teens approached me and began trash talk.
I laughed at their feeble attempts to insult me. I threw a couple of words back their way but became paralyzed with laughter.
They did not know how to handle my laughing or the fact that I continued to sit through all of this, so they shouted: "There're eight of us and one of you." This only made me laugh harder. I am by no means a tough person, but these kids were even less threatening.
As the talking neared the point of shut up or put up, my big Chinese friend came over, thinking that I was meeting new people. The preppy teenagers quickly backed off. We sat down laughing at the fake tough guys, then went back in the club.
Clubbing in China was unique, as with many things here in Beijing, I have accepted the experience as different and am grateful for it.