Are Austrian work Christmas parties any different to Australian ones? I found out last year – and rest assured I’ll do a better job this year!
I was full of nervous excitement about my first Austrian work Christmas party. Excited because it was a night of eating good food, drinking and dancing, nervous because I’d only been with the company a month, and my German was not quite ready for drunken conversations.
I booked a local, cheap hotel and made my way there after work to get ready. I’d asked relatively few questions about the actual evening, (thinking incorrectly that I was some kind of party expert) though I knew the basic outline of the event: starting with hot punch in the square outside, and then venturing inside for dinner, drinks and dancing.
So here’s the highlights (and lowlights):
Lowlight #1: Freaking out I’m going to have no friends
As I confidently walked from my hotel to the venue, I was suddenly overcome with a panic attack reminiscent of the first day of school, uni and work. What if no one talks to me? What if I arrive and I don’t recognise anyone? Despite the cold I was sweating bucketloads of nervous energy. Luckily, I timed my arrival perfectly, at the same time as a girl from my office. Done, easy.
Lowlight #2: Why on earth did I choose this outfit?
I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking when I selected my outfit for the event. In Australia a work Christmas party definitely involves a pretty dress… but my thinking here was: it’s the middle of winter – who’s going to stand around in the cold for half an hour in a dress?
I remember looking around in horror as I noticed that every guy was wearing a suit… and some quite fancy… and every girl was wearing… a dress. And beneath my giant warm coat I was styled entirely by Jeans West. Sure, I was wearing a nice top, makeup and jewellery… but I was wearing jeans… and not even dark-coloured jeans.
I panicked about it for about half an hour then decided I didn’t care how I looked. I was going to have fun anyway. I think I was more annoyed that I’d missed a perhaps once-a-year chance to wear a pretty dress, of which I own many.
Hightlight #1: The food
It began with a cold starter and champagne. Then there was wine and a full Austrian buffet, followed by a dessert buffet. Rest assured I ate and drank way too much! I drank my champagne, along with someone else’s who didn’t want it, tasted the white wine and then decided to go with red for my dinner. In retrospect, this was a bad idea.
Highlight #2: Plenty of friends
I was well looked-after by my colleagues and there were also plenty of people who were interested in chatting to the ‘new Aussie girl’, in English. Sure, there were times when I felt a bit out of place and alone, but for the most part I’ve gotten used to that feeling anyway!
Highlight #3: Present time
That’s right: Present time. After dinner, they played a bunch of mixed tunes. Everyone had a song allocated to them and when your song was played, you could go up and CHOOSE A PRESENT FROM THE PRESENT TABLE. The present table was massive and packed with presents (350 employees-worth). It was like choosing prizes after winning Wheel of Fortune. I was so overwhelmed by the selection in front of me that I took the easy way out and chose a huge bottle of vodka. At least I knew I’d use it.
Highlight #4: Dancing
For me, dancing is a universal language. I can hang out on the dancefloor and it doesn’t matter that I can’t understand the language. Add to it an open bar, a photobooth and plenty of fun-loving people, and suddenly the night was passing in a flash
Highlight #5: I made it till 4am!
One of the advantages of attending a Christmas party (or any party) on your own is that you can leave whenever you want. And since I was new, no one was going to pester me to stay longer. I pulled the pin at 4am… but these Austrians… wow. They were still going strong. Austrian sure know how to party!
Lowlight #3: The next day
I wish I could say that I woke up feeling chipper the next morning, but it just wouldn’t be true. Not only had I experienced the latest night in a long time, but I’d also filled my stomach with a nasty mix of drink varieties. I don’t think it was the quantity so much as the variety: hot punch, champagne, red & white wine, vodka and orange… and maybe there was a schnapps or two.
Highlight #6: Next year
So now that I know how it works, I’ll be a pro for the next one. I’ll be arriving in a fancy dress, sticking to a single variety of alcohol and fighting my way to the table through the throngs of people for an awesome gift.