Top 7 Japanese Nomikai Don’ts

Drinking in Style

By The Savvy Team
May 31, 2016
Food & Drink, Lifestyle

The seven sins of a Kampai gone bad.

Embracing an electric pole thinking it’s your friend. Impulsively calling your ex and talking sexy for over 10 minutes only to find out you had his dad on the phone. Waking up on a bench in the middle of nowhere, thinking it was your comfortable couch. Alcohol does cruel things to us. But there’s a time and place for everything. Nomikai, or drinking with colleagues, as everyone working in Japan knows, is part of the job. And there’s nothing worse than going to work on Monday, redfaced, wishing you could hide in every available corner over embarrassment from the night before. With the upcoming beer garden season and numerous opportunities to enjoy a few drinks with your colleagues, here are a few tips of what to avoid during your next nomikai.Izakaya by Ari Helminen cropped

1. Don’t get too casual

A few drinks make us relaxed and it won’t be long before you start making yourself comfortable, thinking that your colleagues may be your next best buddies. While that’s great for the work environment, remember that your boss sitting near you won’t necessarily appreciate it if you get too casual with him/her. The same applies for colleagues you are not particularly close with. For us foreigners, being casual is sometimes a sign of affection and closeness. But many Japanese people would find that inappropriate. If you’re using Japanese, always use the polite “masu” form to your superiors even if you’re in a tipsy good mood. Never use slang, or call them “anata,” “omae” or any other names you  wouldn’t use at an office environment.

2. Don’t reveal much

While it may be fun to discuss what underwear you prefer wearing or what other private interests you have while everyone’s drinking and laughing about it, it won’t be funny when you go to work the next day thinking that everyone knows more about you than you ever wanted them to. Respect your privacy and respect your colleagues’ rights of not wanting to know your house secrets.


3. Don’t badmouth other colleagues

You never know how your words can be interpreted. You may be just trying to make a joke, but if you go to work the next day only to find out that someone is unhappy with you, chances are they may have heard something. Even if you dislike someone, make sure you at least say a few positive things about them and don’t say anything that may get you in trouble. Remember, nomikai is pretty much the same as the Internet.

4. Don’t talk negatively about Japan

You don’t want to be the foreigner who is trying to entertain the crowd by making fun of your host country. Remember, you’re probably surrounded by at least a few colleagues who happen to be Japanese and even if they laugh along with you — trust me, they’re not really enjoying it.


5. Don’t get too drunk

This as well may be number one on the list. But really, know your limit. Remember this is not your college dorm, this is your work environment. You wouldn’t enjoy smiling to your colleagues if you know they’ve seen you intoxicated, sleeping at a restaurant, or what not. Drink less than your limit and always make sure that you’re stable enough to go back home on your own and have actual memory of the entire drinking experience. You don’t want anyone from work carrying you home.

6. Don’t look bored

Even if you don’t understand the language completely and the party is indeed slightly boring, don’t make it too obvious. Don’t check your phone every five minutes showing everyone that you have better ways to spend your evening. Try to find a common topic and get involved in the conversation. Specifically targeting people you have rarely spoken to before is a great way to enjoy the evening and make it fun for everyone else as well.  You don’t want to be the one person in the company no one wants to invite to a next gathering.

7. Don’t reveal nomikai accidents

What goes on nomikai stays on nomikai. Even if you saw your usually stern boss dancing to AKB48 with his necktie tied to his head, don’t remind them about it on the next day. Don’t take photos of them doing that and don’t make them a legend at work over something they’re probably embarrassed of anyway. No matter what happened during the nomikai, greet your colleagues the day after by saying “Thank you, it was a great night.” And if you were the one dancing with the tie on or doing other embarrassing things, apologize to your colleagues, thank them for their care and make it up for them over lunch or dinner. Kampai!

If you have any fun, embarrassing or unique stories from a recent nomikai that you don’t mind sharing, please leave a comment. Go on, don’t be shy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.