Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Survive an Enkai

I went home last night hungry and with a throbbing headache. As soon as I opened the door of my apato (apartment), I collapsed on the carpet (I don't have a couch, poor me!) and slept the night. Thankfully, my headache was gone when I woke up in the morning. My face was smudgy though and my breath was deadly. All thanks to the drinking party or enkai I attended the previous night.

Schools in Japan usually hold 4 major enkais throughout the school year. A welcoming party in April, a sem-ender before summer vacation, the year-end party called bon enkai and the farewell party in March. In my 1/2 stay in the school where I teach, I've only attended three times. Last night was my third. 

Drinking party in Japan
However, last night was a little different. For some reason, enkais are divided into 2- the first party and the second party. (Very creative in naming them noh?) The first party is the more formal one where people give speeches in a hotel and you all act and talk properly. Then there's the second one, the party after the party, where people are just free to go beserk, sing the night away, drink all the beer they can, shout and vomit and do whatever. Now, last night was my first time to attend the second party. It was fun until the room just got too stuffy for me and I realized that I haven't eaten a proper dinner. I didn't know how I lasted until the host said it's time to leave. We somehow all said our goodbyes and went home safely, I hope. 

So waking up this morning, I realized the things I should have done to have enjoyed the enkai more. I'm bound to attend one or two more enkais this coming school year so might as well have guidelines. 

1. Eat a proper dinner before attending the party. 

I know parties should make you go home full. There's decent food during enkais but there's more drinks. People are extra sociable during enkais it's not easy to have a sit-down dinner. Coworkers will come up to you and pour you drinks. They'll talk and you have to talk back without food hanging on your mouth. You just gotta socialize you know. This is one of those rare times when your Japanese coworkers acknowledge your existence. Food? Eating? Ain't nobody got time for that in enkais.  

I went home hungry last night cause I didn't heed my own advice. I attended the party without having dinner first. I ate at the party but I drank thrice the amount of food I took. It's hard to eat when my coworkers are all over me. I certainly can't deny them my awesome-English conversation skills.:)

2. Be the first to pour beer or wine. And you can say "Enough's enough."

This is what happens in enkais. Your coworkers will come up to you with bottles of beer or wine in their hand. They'll pour some in your glass. (You can also pour some in their glasses.) You'll talk a little then both of you move on. Another person will come up to you and pour you beer or wine again and talk with you. This pouring and talking goes on until the host has something to say. You'll probably end up drinking 3 to 4 glasses of beer. If you like drinking, this must be heaven to you but not for me. I don't like to drink so drinking all the beer or wine they give me is like torture. I keep on accepting their offer because I thought it's impolite not to. 
Pouring beer

Last night, when I'm already feeling warm, I decided to grab a bottle, go around and pour people drinks. I have enough of them coming up to me and making me drunk. I should have done it earlier in the night. When people also offered to pour my glass, I politely declined while pointing to my red face. They're okay with it. They're not offended or anything. Some teachers also declined. I guess I forgot that it's not a crime to say No in whatever culture. 

3. Save for enkais. 

Aside from going home with hunger and headache, I was also broke. I paid about 11,000 Yen for the two drinking parties. Drinking parties are not cheap. The average enkai costs about 6,000- 8,000 Yen. A teacher told me that a portion of their salary is being deducted for enkais cause it's not cheap to attend them. I'll do that beginning next month. I'd probably attend 2 enkais this next school year so might as well save up for that. 

Other things: 

Check the dress code. 

I'm saying this cause I've attended two enkais where I dressed incorrectly. The first one, I thought it was formal so I was in my suit. When I arrived, everybody was dressed casually. I took of my suit to loosen my formality. The principal was thankfully in formal clothes so I wasn't alone. Then last night I thought it was semi-formal so I was wearing a nice dress with flower prints and cardigan. Turns out it was a formal event. I was ill at ease at first but well, people started taking off their coats cause it was warm so I felt more comfortable. 

Just try to enjoy. 

As I've said, enkais are those rare moments when your Japanese coworkers talk to you and laugh with you. I don't really like drinking but attending enkais made me more comfortable with my coworkers. They're also more sociable after I attended the few enkais I went to. Enkais are like the Japanese version of team building events. So just enjoy it. Doesn't matter if you understand them or if they understand you. Drinking knows no language barriers. 

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