Friday, February 02, 2007

The Company Dinner, Taiwan Style

Tonight I went to my kindergarten's yearly dinner. I drank a lot of wine and beer, so I'm a little drunk right now. It wasn't my idea to drink so much, but the boss kept toasting me, and then he challenged the Taiwanese teachers by telling them that if they drank beer with me (in carefully orchestrated toasts), they would get a "hong bao," which is to say that they would get a red envelope full of money (the traditional Chinese gift). So I drank and drank. God, it was fantastic.

Oh! That's not my point. I just wanted to describe the typical company dinner in Taiwan as I have experienced it. Here goes:

Basically, the typical company dinner takes place at a restaurant. Weird, huh? Chinese restaurants are different from Western restaurants in that they are generally set up for banquet-type dining. The tables are big and round, and they all have a lazy Susan in the middle. Dishes are brought out one at a time, and each person takes what he or she wants and then rotates the dish to the next person. There is actually a particular procession of dishes, but I don't know what it is. I just know the last dish is a whole fish, and then some sweet soup and fruit come out.

An interesting thing at these dinners is that people sometimes drink alcohol (called "wine" by the Chinese, no matter if it is beer, red wine, or any other kind of liquor or alcoholic beverage). Not everyone drinks, but those who do seem to be engaged in some kind of contest to see who can drink the most. Naturally when I am present I beat the shit out of all of them, but I pretend that each drink is potentially fatal just to keep up appearances.

Anyway, it isn't much different from company functions in the West, except we Westerners don't usually need much prodding from the boss to get liquored up. Hell, that's one of the benefits of having a job!

One other thing that is typical at Taiwanese company dinners is karaoke. Luckily the boss and his wife don't like singing, so we were spared the agony this evening. The teachers, however, want to have a karaoke session next week with me. They don't drink, and they will mostly sing Chinese songs (imagine a bag of cats being bashed against a wall). I am going to get loaded for this one.

I'll keep you posted.

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