A banquet, baijiu & Bon Jovi (my first office party in China)

This makes two karaoke parties in a row where Bon Jovi has made an appearance in the form of a passionate, Chinese-accented rendition of “It’s My Life”.

I don’t know about office parties, because all the jobs I had in North America weren’t ever office party kind of jobs. Last night’s New Years party for the magazine and associated companies (about 80 people at a hotel banquet) was my first one. I sat next to the big boss at the international table, which had (including me): three Koreans, two Japanese, a Canadian, a Scot, a Chinese (the boss), and an American. The Koreans were fun, the Japanese were almost invisible, the Scot could really drink, and the American was considered masculine because she smoked (they told her so).

The Fun
So I don’t know how to compare this to the average North American office party. Do office parties in America involve nice banquets, door prizes, co-workers singing to karaoke tracks, fun balloon popping competitions, cute homemade videos of all the staff, and good food? They should; it was actually kind of fun. Do most people suddenly get up and leave, as if given some sudden, subtle signal? That was kind of weird, like all these happy-looking people were really just waiting for their first chance to split (I don’t think they really were).

The Booze
What about the booze? Do American office parties have endless beer, wine, and báijiǔ (白酒)? You know, in a sad sort of way I’m actually thankful that East Asians are genetically predisposed to be weaker drinkers; it makes it a little easier to remain both polite (if the boss toasts you…) and un-inebriated over the course of an evening. I’m not a big drinker and I flat out refuse to get drunk, but I don’t mind doing my duty within those limits, so it’s convenient that the people whom I don’t want to offend will probably quickly reach the point where they won’t remember me avoiding all those extra shots anyway.

The KTV
And what about an an ear-splitting karaoke after-party that involves revolutionary songs from elementary school, Bon Jovi, and an impromptu, drunken, yet sincere pre-national anthem speech about loving communism by a guy who’s made it rich in China’s current economy? I have to admit, if they don’t do karaoke after-parties in America then they are seriously missing out. Chinese karaoke parties are fun. It’s loud and crowded and rènao (热闹) the way Chinese like it. Everyone gets to have fun singing their hearts out and no one really cares if they don’t sound that good (this is also true of alcohol-free karaoke parties).

I left a little after 11pm (pregnant wife at home and all) after doing my obligatory KTV duty (it’s always satisfying to get the surprised looks when a lǎowài sings in Chinese) but before they made good their threat of making the lǎowàis sing Hotel California (I don’t know why it’s always Hotel California). After a half-hour flat-tire bike ride home, I discovered Jessica still had friends over. But the holidays end tomorrow morning at 8:05!

3 thoughts on “A banquet, baijiu & Bon Jovi (my first office party in China)”

  1. I don’t really know about office parties here either since I’ve not had an office job but the party you described sounds pretty Chinese. The American banquets I have been to typically have a few courses or a buffet with an open bar and dancing. And if you’re not a dancer you are out of luck. I imagine some of the American parties have door prizes but definitely not a banquet with 10 courses along with the games and videos. And karaoke is definitely an Asian thing. Having experiences in banquets of both American and Chinese I must say that the Chinese ones are definitely more fun!

  2. I totally agree… Chinese parties are fun! And people seem less self-conscious about singing in front of people. But at Chinese parties you have to work hard to make sure you don’t get hammered (unless you want to get hammered of course), at least if you’re a guy, because they’ll be doing their manly man junior high peer pressure routine with the beer and wine and baijiu all night long. Drunk people are boring to talk to.

  3. I was warned – in time – that many KTV facilities are ‘fronts’ for prostitution. Everyday is an adventure…

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