No matter where your Czech employer holds its Christmas party and what its theme is, its basic framework often might as well have come from the copy machine. Below we’ve provided a very typical blow-by-blow for these parties. We only hope the blows don’t land too close to home!
There are some companies where at year’s end they’re satisfied with just a toast in the meeting room and a Secret Santa… but yours isn’t one of them. At yours, Christmas is all over the cc’s come October. This year’s Christmas party is 80s-themed. As original as it gets. (Thanks, Alice…)
Now Alice from Internal Communication is trying to spark everyone’s enthusiasm, and so every day she’s sending everyone a countdown of the days until the party, along with pictures of recommended outfits – “for inspiration.” But we all know that she’s just worried it will end up like last year, when the theme was “Your Superhero,” and Vladimir the janitor came as Stalin. When he got drunk, he decided he wanted to play gulag, and chose a junior accountant to be the prisoner – the poor guy had come there as Captain America. The accountant’s still traumatized by it today, and for almost half a year now he’s been sitting on the exercise ball he borrowed from Esther in HR just in case reporting his broken chair might land him in the gulag again.
The last mass email came this morning, the party officially starts today at 7, and you’re all supposed to be there on time, because the CEO has a speech at 8. Aha.
Alice runs into the venue in period dress (a purple nylon jacket), fuming, and digs into the catering. She mumbles under her breath that she sure as hell won’t get caught up in this mess the next time around… even though she knows full well that she will, and gladly.
The first guests are shuffling in; the braver ones have arrived in their costumes directly (the auditing team, God knows why), while the rest take their costumes straight to the restrooms, which then emanate girly giggles, Prince, and heartfelt comments from the salesmen: “Karel, dude! You look gayyyy!”
Juraj from IT with an overflowing Tesco bag comes in too. “Whoa! Perfect outfit! Who found that fanny pack for you? And that nylon vest?!” Hearing this said of his everyday attire, Juraj retreats with his plastic bag back into the hall, but he already knows whose internet will be broken tomorrow. And tomorrow… tomorrow it will hurt much more.
A good 45 people are standing in the hall, and most of them look like casting-call rejects from Beverly Hills 90210.
The room is continuing to fill up. Alice is nodding contentedly and casting glances at her boss Miriam to see if Miriam sees how she’s got it all under control. Miriam couldn’t care less and is flirting at the bar with some guy in carrot jeans – that is, she’s doubtlessly drunk as a skunk.
The first challenge appears. The employees are mixing up eighties and nineties fashion, the first argument about stone-washed jeans arrives, and shoulder pads follow; Alice plays referee, and marketing and finance are brought a little bit closer thanks to a common enemy.
The CEO still hasn’t arrived, but Alice has a backup plan; a real live (faded) Czech pop star, Sagvan Tofi, jumps onto the stage – he accepted a barter deal to play at the party. He starts singing his philosophical hit “Give! Take!” a capella, because the band isn’t there yet. But the crowd is already mercifully buzzed, and the dance floor is full of wriggling nylon jackets, nylon stockings, and flannel shirts, all perfectly gender-balanced; Ester in her tie-dye uniform is handing out the little plastic linkable C’s that the Czechs and Slovaks were collecting back then; and the smell of spilled egg liqueur wafts through the air.
The CEO finally arrives, wearing tasteful eighties gym shoes and holding a string bag. He gets into a conversation with managing partner Julien, but Alice uncompromisingly pulls him up onto the stage – he is, as she stresses in English, a hour and a half late and people are excited to hear his speech.
The CEO commences his visionary speech in Czech, working from a pronunciation crib sheet, briefly catching the interest of a few people right below the podium. Within a few minutes, he switches into his native franglais. He suggestively evokes the feeling that everyone here is equal, that we’ve all worked very hard this year, but that the coming year will be, like them all, tough and challenging and that he’ll be looking forward to our excitement, our new business, the goals we all set for our KPIs, and our ‘appy faysiz ze next-euh year… Alice plaintively tries to set the crowd clapping, and the race for the hors d’oeuvres is on.
Vladimir has arrived in a hat that he seems to have kept around from a relative’s (or his own) old career on Wenceslas Square and is walking up to people shouting “Wechseln? Change?”
The sound system is playing tunes from Michal David (who wouldn’t accept a barter deal to play at the party). Things are getting serious on the dance floor: the corporate coach Dagmar is leading the “choo choo train,” Vladimir is sticking hard-currency vouchers into women’s necklines, and the management is recollecting on pre-revolutionary Prague while the interns are just smiling and nodding because they have no idea what this “normalization” thing was, and googling Veřejná bezpečnost on their bathroom breaks.
There are some really weird things floating in the chocolate fountain. And chocolate is being poured onto some really weird things.
There are some weird things happening with the flow of time. Helena, who nobody at the company even knows what she does, seems to have overdone it with the wine, and is standing alone at the potato-salad table singing a protest song from the Velvet Revolution. Juraj from IT joins her in song, and then in the journey into the nighttime chill.
The last two couples are trudging on the dance floor – Alice and Vladimír, and Karel and Sagvan. A cleaning lady with a mop is elegantly slaloming among them, and the barman is flipping the chairs onto the tables and gathering up those little plastic C’s for his daughter.
The day after
Miriam and Ester are the first to plod into the office. The moment they greet each other, they each grow unsure: Am I still allowed to call her “ty,” or has she forgotten?
Karel can’t get into his Facebook. Or his Instagram. Or his email.