Drinking parties, or enkai in Japanese are aimed at both promoting communication between companies and facilitating negotiations, and are a feature common to not only Japan, but to other countries throughout Asia. However, bringing together members from different companies for drinking parties as a part of negotiations is much less common in the West. Managers and top-level officials will sometimes meet for golf in order to discuss business, but having managers and other employees get together to socialize over drinks by going to bars, karaoke, or clubs is pretty well unheard of. Japan places great stock in in vino veritas—the idea that people tend to speak more frankly after a few drinks. However, does requiring alcohol in order to speak honestly mean that conversely, people are unable to express themselves honestly during meetings?
Alcohol does have a role in business in the West. In some countries, “business lunches” are an accepted part of doing business. These are exactly what the name indicates—after lunch is finished, both parties return to the office. These are not opportunities to get drunk and party, instead they are centered towards work, and for the most part comprise discussing business over a good meal and wine at a restaurant. On the other hand, Japanese enkai are geared around having people develop personal relationships, and they may not actually involve much talking about the business at hand. Where does this difference come from? Drinking has long been rooted in Japanese culture, but this is not the case in the West, where drinking is primarily something to do for relaxation, outside of work. In the West, there are also some people who do not drink for religious reasons. The Japanese style of work parties, in which drinking to let of steam is often frowned upon by companies in the West, may well give an unfavorable impression of the staff involved or even the company itself.
Either way, make sure you don’t drink too much!