Survey shows most Japanese employees don’t like Western-style work socials

By Jamie Koide, RocketNews24

Japanese companies are beginning to make preparations for their annual "bonenkai" (end-of-year) and "shinnenkai" (New Year) parties. Even if they’re the kind of people who sometimes duck out on after-work drinks with the boss, most Japanese employees are painfully aware that skipping the biggest corporate celebrations of the year is tantamount to career suicide.

Because large-scale events usually require more space than your average drinking party, many Japanese companies have recently been moving away from typical sit-down "enkai" banquets and are holding more Western-style events where staff are encouraged to move around freely and interact over a few drinks.

But according to a recent survey, these Western-style work socials are overwhelmingly unpopular in Japan.

R25, a business website catering to businessmen in their late 20s, recently surveyed working men and women between the ages of 20 and 30 to ask which style of party they’d rather attend. Out of 200 respondents, 84.5% said they preferred traditional sit-down type parties, while only 15.5 percent said they preferred the Western-style stand-and-mingle type.

The results were a little surprising considering mingle-style parties avoid the typical Japanese drinking party complaints of getting stuck next an annoying co-worker or having to pour your boss drinks all night, so what exactly were workers so unhappy with? Here are the top seven reasons why.

7. There’s a chance you’ll be standing by yourself, all alone.

At parties where people are constantly moving in and out of conversations around the room, less social partygoers often find it harder to get in on the action. In contrast, sit-down style festivities usually have arranged seating to keep anyone from becoming the odd one out — you may not be thrilled with the seating arrangement, but you’ll always have people to talk to.

6. It’s difficult to approach people while they’re having a good time.

We have to agree that “Can I pour you a drink?” sounds slightly less awkward when there’s a bottle of booze on the table in front of you and you’re already seated next to someone else, not to mention it’s easier to keep up with the conversation and jump in when everyone isn’t spread out across the room.

5. It’s hard to eat while drinking.

Without anything to rest your glass or plate on, juggling both at the same time can be a real struggle. The potential for spilling your beer on your boss’s expensive suit is also higher.

4. You get drunker (or at least it feels that way).

Apparently without a table to keep you grounded, it’s easier for inebriated mishaps to occur, like in the case of one respondent who said he fell over drunk at a mingle and ended up breaking his glasses, or some of these other awkward moments.

3. You can’t drink as much as you’d like to.

Maybe fearing the episode above, people are less likely to push their limits. Although considering how many times we’ve had to sidestep puke on a train platform or the sidewalk left behind by people who drank a lot more than they should have, we’re not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing.

2. You never get to eat your fill.

Most sit-down parties portion out helpings of food for each section of the table, so everyone has equal dibs when it comes to serving themselves. Naturally being involved in a conversation away from the food table or constantly having a drink in your hand can complicate things.

1. Your feet start to hurt.

Our final complaint today might sound silly at first, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. If you’ve been running around the office all day, and likely in heels if you’re a woman, the last thing you want to do is stand for another two to three hours on your worn-out feet. Japanese-style socials usually allow you to sit down and take a load off, but if you’re standing up all night, your dogs are bound to be barking. I suppose you could just throw your dignity out the window and change into more comfortable footwear.

We have to admit that’s a pretty solid list of reasons in favor of the traditional sit-down drinking party.

That said, if you didn’t want to be there in the first place the standing type does have its advantages, as one commenter noted: if you’re looking to break away from the party early, it’s a lot easier with a large room full of people mulling around.

Source: R25

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- The ugly truth of gokon, Japan’s group blind dates -- Suntory encourages responsible drinking with bizarre guide to declining party invitations -- Four moments when Japan’s single men are glad they’re not married

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When I read the headline my first reaction was "Pah!" but actually, they make some pretty valid points!

15 ( +18 / -3 )

Actually people would be milling around but perhaps mulling (grinding,pulverizing) is apt as that's how I feel at the shindigs.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yeah, I go along with all of them.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think you can take the word "Japanese" out of the title and it still holds true. Some work shindigs are good for a launch party -- just to get you ready for the Nijikai. But in general -- I use any excuse possible to avoid these. I think the Japanese got it right with the Bonenkai and Shinnenkai at a local izakaya. There's just too many of them though.......

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As a young company slave I was intrigued as to why the 40 year old married slaves were all shunning the end of year stuff. All the chances for free booze, vulnerable ladies and general silliness! I realised Monday morning after. I am now a bit of a shunner and can completely understand the feelings above.

I do have a end of year party with the lads but nobody work-related I have to look at during the Monday meeting.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

These western style parties are much better. You can have a drink, chat to a few people (who you actually want to talk to) and then slip out unnoticed once you've had enough. I hate Japanese sit-down drinking parties which you can't escape from and seem to last forever.

19 ( +23 / -4 )

I think numbers 7 and 6 are the real issues to this situation. Japanese workers find it hard to talk to people outside their own group even with the same company, yet feel compelled to just sit with the ones you know and not try to mingle with an outsider.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I hate Japanese sit-down drinking parties which you can't escape from and seem to last forever.

It's easy to escape from if you time it right. Generally after all the speeches and what not are finished, just quietly go out to the restroom, take a turn for the exit and go. Typically it's the "guilty" feelings that you will have leaving everyone behind, but if you arent working the next day odds are no one will say anything as they are all too drunk to care.....unless you are the "life" of the party that is!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Sounds like the Omia TV programs on TV. Chotto Mattta!

Yubaru is right about escaping. Much easier than at a sit down function on tatami.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

"Well, they are Japanese. What are they gonna do, relax?"

-Cabin in the woods

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Survey shows most Japanese employees don’t like Western-style work socials

It ain't westerners fault that those robots have no lives. Western-style work solcials boosts overal morale. And boy, do the japanese need the "morale" factor in that exhausted, demoralized forkforce.

1 ( +12 / -11 )

You get drunker (or at least it feels that way).

Eh? Ahhh instead of sitting down, drink all you can and then stand up totally s**tfaced because you didn't realize how far drunk you were.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It's not what you're used to is one reason. And I think that's valid. You can't just force people to go against their cultural grain. There's a reason the office party evolved in this way here in Japan. I can see many Japanese people feeling very awkward at a Western-style get together. It doesn't have the controlled flow or invite the same expected behaviors. So you're kind of winging it in an environment that's alien to you. Not a good idea for getting people to have fun. It's not that one way is right and the other is wrong. It's that one is right here and one is better elsewhere. Companies should take this into account when they pull the party carpet out from under their employees like this.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It simply comes down to a cultural difference. For a western-style party to work, you need western-style social skills. A Japanese-style sit-down party wouldn't work in many western countries, for example. Personally, I don't like either! Anything work-related and I'm out the door in a flash!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Culturally, do the Chinese and Koreans behave the same way as the Japanese with everything being done in groups, with senpai kohai arrangements? Am curious.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One aspect not mentioned is the ethos of forgetting in the label 忘年会, or euphemistically 'Let's forget the year' party.

This year at least, my bonenkai at work will be more a wake than a celebration and I would like to remember it less. We generally sit around tables on chairs in a place where it is possible to move around (or escape), rather than a small cramped izekaya tatami zaseki in which it is impossible to move (or escape).

But I have understood reasons 5 and 2 very much: we do not have three hands! and sometimes a table is really convenient!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I feel like the term "western-style" gets overused enough already, and applying it now to parties is a bit much in my opinion. A party by definition should be relaxed with a certain degree of informality. To me people mixing freely in a space over drinks is a party. The enkai system? I'm not sure I'd call them a party. More like a meeting with drinks. If Japanese people say they don't like "western-style parties," then to me it sounds as if they don't really like parties/mixing socially. I mean, let's face it, at an enkai you don't do a heck of a lot of mixing. you're stuck in your seat with others from your department. Again, to me that's just another kind of meeting. Nijikais are usually a lot better. The people who like each other want to go out and have a good time and can do so.

12 ( +14 / -2 )


2 ( +3 / -1 )

they lack what we call, the social skills.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I like parties which have both Japanese and Western aspects. I mean, parties where you can move around and sit down wherever you like. In that way, you can enjoy talking with different people and rest you feet without feeling that awkward. Doesn't that sound good to you?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Oh Bonenkai season is upon us. Western style or Japanese, all it means is that I'll barely get to see my husband until New Years. So I guess I equally hate both types of get together as they're basically mandatory and I guess I'm one of those crazy women who actually want to spend time with their spouse. Sigh.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

It’s hard to eat while drinking. The potential for spilling your beer on your boss’s expensive suit is also higher.

If a few beers "are not" spilling, then I'd say it isn't a party at all.

they lack what we call, the social skills.

Exactly. It's not that hard to walk up to other familiar or friendly faces and mingle, even if they aren't in your department.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

News flash, most western employees hate these "western style" end of year parties. Sometimes they have themes like 70s style, yuck.

The key is to view these parties not as a real party where you can have fun ir relax but as a chance to impress your bosses with your charm and eloquence, and sobriety.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Spend your time pouring drinks for others. It cuts down on drinking. Alternatively, spend your time drinking. Either way, there are worse things to worry about.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Personally both can be a pain in the backside but I actually really don't mind standing alone in the mingle situation. I usually just position myself by the food and drinks and fill my boots until the right conversation comes up. It's much less awkward than forcing conversation.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You never get to eat your fill.

I never get my fill at Japanese-style nomikai's, either. Usually I skip out of the country before the bounenkai's so I'm not sure if they have a little more food or not, though.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

~Sharon, have another Babysham? ~Oooh Mr Frobisher you are so naughty, why are we in the broom cupboard? - Western style party.

~Keiko, if you do not come with me to do every sexual deviation known to mankind at the local S&M hotel you are fired- Japanese style party.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

japanese people are not good at ice breaking. Mostly it's the gaijins who take the initiative and then the Japanese counterpart starts conversation for the sake of formality. They prefer the sitting arrangement because it's less challenging which ends up as preplanned conversation.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Both types have their advantages. I don't need to deal with smashed people though. In the Western style I can escape more easily. If I really like most of the people attending though, the Japanese-style is fine.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Whatever floats your boat, I guess. Most salarymen have the social graces of porcine beasts. At the sit-down socials, I always make sure they know I will not be sitting with guys on either side of me. Nothing worse than having to talk to some drunk boring stiff with bad breath all night.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

How about none of the above.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is a 2 way street. I believe some westerners do not like the social events in Japanese companies either.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The best ones I ever attended started with a happy hour, then a sit-down dinner, and after that a dance to live music. You get it all, that way. And, if you're lucky....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Agree with Leigh Ivan - why the need to call it "Western", when all it is is a stand up celebration of a year of hard work. The nice thing about that style of party is that you actually have a chance to meet and talk to people you don't normally interact with... including the Boss. We westerner's hate those parties for the same reasons.... but every once in awhile it turns into something really fun.... and if run properly, more often than not, it is fun.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Who says one way is western and the other isn't? If your party is boring it's because the people aren't having any fun. And forced company parties aren't universally loved are they?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I like both.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You could probably reverse this completely. "Survey shows most Western employees don’t like Japanese-style work socials." The endless speeches are what kill me. The food is usually mediocre with an emphasis placed on the drinking. I actually find at this kind of party - I don't end up eating enough. I actually eat more at Western style socials because at least there is a food table, and you can order something like reasonably priced pizza and reasonably sized pizza if you want extra food...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well, the worst thing about being seated next to people you cant avoid is when they start asking (after a few drinks) If you like Japanese girls/boys, the length or size of certain body parts, the amazing ability you have to use cutlerly properly, your marital/relationship status without considering anything like your sexual orientation or the possibilty of a recent break up or divorce

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Everyone hates works dos. Not just the Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

At the sit down style work parties here, I usually find as the bill has been paid and I think i'm almost home and dry (or free to go and meet my mates), some desperado suggests the niijikai and the whole situation gets dragged out for another few hours.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


Just say, noooooooooooooooooooooooo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most Westerners do not like being forced to attend business-related social events scheduled during time that should be theirs...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I hate all such events and never attend them. Why would I want to waste my precious time with the same collection of humanity I have to suffer all day everyday??

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I would rather be alone than have to mingle with people I have nothing in common with. I'll choose who I want to hangout with rather than sit at a table stuck with people I don't particularly want to know any better.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The endless speeches are what kill me. The food is usually mediocre with an emphasis placed on the drinking. I actually find at this kind of party - I don't end up eating enough.

Couldn't agree more.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They're not popular in the U.S either !!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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