It’s that time of the year again when it looks like the entire Capital has been sprinkled with glitter. Bright city lights and festive Christmas decor around every corner are nearly impossible to miss. Whether you actually celebrate Christmas or its just another consumerist holiday that provides the opportunity to bag a bargain, the holidays add some much needed charm and beauty to the long and dark winter days. I happen to think London is at its prettiest all decked out in Christmas lights.
If, like me, your day time job involves working in a large corporate, it also means that in all likelihood at some point this month your company will be hosting its annual Christmas party. The most anticipated event in the social calendar for many of my colleagues who spend ages fretting over outfits for the event, I start silently dreading it from the moment that the email invitation pops up in my inbox. Being a Muslim working in the City has its own struggles, not least of which is attending the annual Christmas soiree. Having just survived the most recent of these last week, I have put together my tips for surviving your office Christmas party.
Give your colleagues a heads up
If you’re new to the company or haven’t socialised with your colleagues much, I would recommend letting those you work closely with that you don’t drink. Being based in the City of London means that the highlight of the Christmas party for many is the opportunity to drink and get the company to foot the bill. Everyone in my team has stars in their eyes at the mention of the words “open bar” and so, informing them that you don’t drink alcohol will most likely get you a couple weird stares and definitely a few predictable questions. The five minute awkwardness of conversation that ensues will save you from having to decline a drink and then launch into an explanation of why you don’t drink every time someone offers on the night.
Network, Network, Network
Being out of the office provides a good opportunity to get to know your colleagues in a less formal way. Strike up conversation with someone from accounting who you usually only chase for invoices or ask to be introduced to people who work in areas that interest you. It will come in handy the next time you need something done ASAP or you decide to apply for a position in another department and you already know someone who works in that team.
Find the Muslims
If you work in a large organisation that does not have an Islamic society and you haven’t bumped into any Muslims at the prayer room, the Christmas party is a good chance to connect with other Muslims who work at your company. It’s easy to spot them – sometimes bearded or in hijab and usually among the very few sober people in the room towards the end of the evening. I always find it comforting to know other Muslims across the company who share the same struggles, understand why you have your feet in the sink and know Ramadaan hangriness (An induced state of anger caused by hungriness, leading to a need to put yourself in a food coma to resolve such anger) all too well.
Bankers let loose can get a little wild. In my experience, it isn’t very long before professionalism goes out the window after a few drinks. Being the only sober one can be painful so prepare yourself for a lot of silliness and know that almost no one but you will have recollection of what happened the next day. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure your phone battery is fully charged so you can capture any particularly memorable moments involving your boss attempting things no 60-something English gentlemen from the City would ever admit to!
While it might not be your first choice for a night out, avoiding social events hosted by the company can make you appear like a social pariah and so if you must go along, try and make the most of it. Usually there is some type of entertainment or theme to the evening and props, photo booths and the like might be made available. Enjoy the lightheartedness and silliness of the evening and every time you spot someone doing something utterly ridiculous, be thankful you don’t drink and will never be that silly!
Good luck on surviving your office Christmas party and if you have any go to tricks that I have missed, be sure to let me know.