An Expat’s Guide To Office Christmas Parties

19 December 2013



It’s the time of the month for office Christmas parties. As awkward as normal office Christmas parties back home are, office Christmas parties abroad are on a whole new level, so we thought we’d save you some of your dignity by compiling a guide to help you have a smooth and fun time at your office Christmas party abroad.


Don’t Dress to Over Impress


Don’t wear anything you wouldn’t wear in the office. Remember, you’re still going to be working with the people you’ll be partying with and you don’t want them to lose all respect for you by the way you dress. Another thing to be mindful of is the culture of the country you’re in. Local or cultural clothing is not a costume. You do not want to offend anyone by trying too hard to fit in. If you want to show your Christmas spirit through your clothing, you can opt for a simpler holiday style like a Christmas hat or a Christmas sweater or even just wearing holiday colours like red and green. There’s so many ways you can look jolly without looking too gaudy.


Exchange Gift Ideas


The most common activity in any Christmas party anywhere in the world, is the exchanging of presents. Some companies even have secret Santas for the whole holiday season. For your gift ideas, don’t be too specific to the culture of the locals in your country of residence, as it might be taken the wrong way. You don’t want to give out gifts that only you can understand either. Get simple but useful gifts. Most of the time, company Christmas exchange gifts have budgets, so stick to the budget, because you don’t want to overwhelm or underwhelm the person you’ll be giving the gift to. For office presents, it is always safer to go with the “need” than the “want”, give gifts that your co-workers can really use instead of wildly guessing what they might like.


Mix and Mingle


As the song “Jingle Bell Rock” suggests, this is the time to “mix and mingle in the jingling beat”. If there are people you don’t normally talk to or interact with in your office, this is the time to at least introduce yourself to them. Do not stick with your usual expat group; you don’t want to be seen as a snob. It’s good to have friends at the party if you are unable to bring your family, but try to mingle with people who are not among your usual crowd. You don’t have to be too friendly, just try to say hi and get to know them; you’ll never know when you might need to work with them in the future. Keep the conversations light, as with any gatherings and especially when you are abroad; avoid topics like politics and religion. Given that this is still a work environment another things to add to the usual list of topics to avoid during small talk should be salary, money in general, sex or love life and health issues you don’t want to get into trouble or make the wrong impression by delving into these subjects. Try to avoid work related subjects too; since this is a chance for you to get to know the people you work with, not do a conference about your tasks.


Manners Matter


Just because it’s a party, doesn’t mean you should put your hardcore party face on. Mind your manners! This is still your work place, you can let loose a little but remember that you still want people here to respect you after the party is over. Try to avoid being too raunchy with your jokes and actions, you don’t want to leave the party with a sexual harassment case. If your co-workers bring their family members, don’t ignore them. Try to be as polite as you can to everyone. Table manners are also something you have to watch out for. Eat a light meal before going to the party, this way if the food is not to your liking you can just take small portions and not starve for the whole party.


Drink Moderately




This is not the place for you to display your beer bong skills. Drinking during the office Christmas party is inevitable, but you should keep track of what you drink. Your behaviour when drunk is something that will be noted and since you’ll be working with these people every day, you don’t want to give the wrong impression. You might also want to take note of what you drink. Since you are abroad and alcohol preferences differ in each country, you can try to adapt with what is being served, don’t be too demanding when it comes to your drinks. Go with the flow and try out new things, but remember to drink moderately.