Friday, December 20, 2013

Help! It's my first bonenkai/shinnenkai!!

So, it's your first year in Japan, and you're going to the company (or school) bonenkai or shinnenkai (new year's party). But, you don't want to fuck things up.

Here's a quick rundown of how to get through the party intact: 

1. Wait for the kampai to drink.
You'll be asked what you want to drink. Don't spend time looking at the drink menu. Just say beer (nama). Everyone does the kampai with beer. Everyone starts off with beer. And yes, yes, yes, there will be a handful of people who order something else. If you don't like beer, but like alcohol, my advice is to take the beer, do the kampai, take a small sip and then order what you want off the menu. Leave the beer in the cup unless it's one of the places where you give your empty cup to the waiter before getting a new drink.
If you absolutely HATE the idea of having a drop of alcohol pass your lips, then order oolong tea or orange juice. 


Seriously. Hold the glass. You'll be holding it for a while. After everyone raises their glasses, take that as a cue to get ready to drink. Then drink.

2. Pace yourself!
The food will be sparse, the drinks will come relatively quickly. If you are a guy, your male co-workers will probably want to see how much you can hold. Don't enter this challenge unless you can keep your head on straight. If you're female, no one gives a fuck what you drink. Either way, there is a LOT of alcohol available, don't lose your head.

3. Talk to your coworkers!
Yes, even chit-chat. If you can't speak Japanese, heaven help us all. Try the best you can with what you have. Smile, don't dominate the conversation. 

4. Don't complain.
Even if you want to, hold your tongue. You're a foreigner and unless you have a group of co-workers that you can trust, just keep your ideas of reform and such to yourself for the time being.

5. EAT
There's a lot of alcohol. Don't drink on an empty stomach.

6. Do NOT get boisterous 
This is not the U.S. or Canada or where ever. No matter how much you drink, you have to remember that you are a representative of your country. Any foreigner that works there after you; any foreigner from your country or your state will be judged based on how YOU are. 

7. Pour some beer for your co-workers.
Japanese people don't pour beer for themselves, they pour it for the people around them and one of the group reciprocates. If you see that your co-worker's beer is low (usually half of a cup) offer some to them. That co-worker will chug down the remainder of the beer and hold out their glass to you (let them hold the glass, do not take it). You pour beer to fill up the glass. The co-worker will do the same for you or offer to order another of the drink you had been drinking. Then you do a small "kampai." 
Brownie points for pouring the beer with the brand label facing up AND by pouring with both hands!!

8. Don't be afraid to be the butt of a joke.
If a game involves wearing a silly costume or singing, go for it. No one is judging you. 

That's about all I can think of...any questions??

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