Friday, December 4, 2009

What did I do different?

Sometimes I like to stop and check how I changed over time.

This Friday was a great opportunity. We had the company's Christmas party. This is a very popular tradition. Basically you eat, drink, have fun, and hopefully nobody will remember afterwards what you did!

We call it "Christmas lunch". It is a “dinner”, but in the tradition of a Danish Christmas lunch, which means:

Appetizers
Herrings (and other fish) and with this you have a lot of "Snaps" and Christmas beer
Diner
different dishes based on pork and duck (greasy heavy food) and more snaps and Christmas beer
Dessert
cheese - snaps (you are now to full to have more beers)
...and more dessert
"ris a l'amande" - the game is for one of us to find the one not cut almond, hidden in one of the puddings

Snaps is a strong alcohol made on potatoes and which has some cummen added - you might have to be Danish or Finnish to tell the difference between snaps and Vodka. The tradition is that if anyone says cheers everybody at the table will empty their glass of snaps.
Christmas beer is a beer only produced at this time of year, and it’s stronger than normal beer.
"ris a l'amande" - which is a rice pudding with almonds and cherry sauce (and one not cut almond, to be found in one of the puddings by us)


Yes, I changed #1
My first "challenge" was that half of our table was empty. We were supposed to sit with the agents. These are sales people who are normally not at the office, so we don't know each other very well.

The sales people had all gathered at two other tables and the ones who came late were placed with us. And after my table was first quite empty, later it was populated with men who had spent hours getting drunk during the dinner.

It's not that Danish people always gets drunk. For many people this is the only time of the year. I guess they just want to see themselves as young and reckless; at least for a night! For many people this night is the night you say the things you usually don't say, or just the night you act crazy.

I've gotten so used to saying what's on my mind that I don't save it for this one special day a year, so you can put me in the second category! And so I had decided to enjoy my table company and it turned out that I was so good at acting crazy that some people believed that I had been following the drinking tradition! I only drank one strong beer and a few light beer and then tap water, but I was having crazy fun!

Yes, I changed #2
I'm working for a company owned by a British company, and the head of the Scandinavia part is Swedish. The Danish employees of the company regularly joke about the "Scandinavian strategy" implemented into our company: it is trying to imply in Denmark what worked in Sweden ten years ago.
This is probably why they booked a Swedish band that was popular at the summer party in Sweden; regardless of the traditions at Danish Christmas parties.

The music was nice but colleagues started to complain about it. For example: “Only one of three singers is singing as much out of tune as I do!”

After listening for a few seconds to the music and the people around me I took a decision: "I want to have fun. Listening to the music and my colleagues will not provide me with the typical atmosphere of a Christmas party”. So while others were entertaining themselves by complaining about the music, I started dancing with one of the secretaries.

Yes, I changed #3
When someone joined me happily and talked about having wanted another music during dinner, I supported his or her view. When someone was complaining about the Swedish invasion (and some of the Swedish employees literally did use these words) they would smile when I would respond: "Nothing new. We always have to try what they are doing in Sweden. And in spite of the initiatives that do not have the same effect in Denmark, we still are able to create the best results, so it is not going to keep me from having fun.”

Differences
This might be a shock to people outside Scandinavia (it even is to many Scandinavian managers):

It might be that
  • Scandinavian people LOVE each other when we meet anywhere in the world, and
  • we all pay high taxes and want the state to pay for education, hospitals etc, and
  • in general we are highly educated and highly independent individuals
  • We are all starting Christmas early (the 24th)
But
  • we do not share the same kind of humor, and
  • we do not have the same way of working.
  • we don't eat the same kind of meals for Christmas!
Yes, I changed #4
After the Danish dinner and the Swedish music, there was a band. And it turned out to be a Danish band that didn't play ABBA or other Swedish hits, but stayed mainly with wonderful American and Canadian tunes.

I love dancing, so I decided that I wanted to dance some more. This might have sounded easy to most people, but I have a history of back pains, which has not always been comparable with dancing. I had my back adjusted the day before the party and I woke up the same morning with pain as a reaction to the adjustment. So I had done an extra treatment the same morning and taken some painkillers.

The physiotherapist did tell me to "keep the muscles going". And even though I questioned that he meant that it was ok to dance for hours, I did so!

Yes, I changed #5
Usually I do not have a problem asking men to dance with me, but at times I choose unhappiness when no one asks me to dance. At this party I decided: "I don't want to stay all night, so I don't want long breaks, and asking for a dance will be more efficient than waiting to be asked". So I danced a lot and had a great time.
As I went for my jacket at the end of the night I saw a couple kissing, and another fighting. And I felt glad that I didn't spend my night telling someone about all my problems, because this is as I used to do in my twenties if I got drunk.

Yes, I changed #6
When I got home I was cold and tired. My dog wasn't. In the past I would take him for a short walk, while being sorry for myself having to walk the dog in the cold and then hurry to bed.

This night I didn't. I played with the dog and then I took a bath while listening to some nice jazz and drinking tea. And when I finally walked my dog, I felt warm and relaxed and I could hear some birds sing even though it would be another four hours for the sun to come up.

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