Your friend is leaving Japan
Hi again. Niko here.
This week’s prompt
Your Japanese friend tells you that next month they’re leaving for New Zealand on a 1-year Working Holiday Visa.
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Last week’s corrections
Your friend texts you to invite you to a 飲み会 [のみかい] (drinking party) next weekend. You’re free that night, but you don’t really want to go.
A large portion of the answers submitted said something along the lines of “I don’t drink” or “I don’t feel like drinking.”
There’s nothing wrong with these answers, per se.
And yet, while I have a lot of Japanese friends in Tokyo who don’t drink, as far as I can recall none of them have ever used this excuse to turn down a 飲み会 invitation from me. (Maybe once or twice? I don’t remember every text convo ^_^)
I’ve always had a hard time translating the word 飲み会. When you say “drinking party” in English, it sounds like it’s going to be a booze-fest or something. And while, depending the people attending, that may very well be the case, it is entirely common to go to 飲み会 even if you don’t drink.
I know this because I’ve been to lots of 飲み会 where friends and acquaintances attended but then either didn’t drink any alcohol or ordered one drink with very little alcohol (e.g. ウーロンハイ [oolong tea highball]).
The main downside if you don’t drink alcohol is that the group might order 飲み放題 [のみほうだい] (all-you-can-drink), and you’d still have to pay your portion of it because the 居酒屋 [いざかや] will charge you for every person.
Maybe it’s not that big of a downside if you like drinking a bunch of non-alcoholic drinks. Here’s a random 飲み放題 menu I found online:
In this example, for 90 minutes of all-you-can-drink, you pay 1,500 yen per person (at the time of writing, about $13 US). If you don’t drink alcohol, that bottom right corner are your options: oolong tea, green tea, iced tea, iced coffee, Korean yuzu tea, cola, giner ale, melon soda, Calpis water, Calpis soda, orange juice, apple juice, grapefruit juice.
This could be a cultural difference, or it might just say something about the types of people I become friends with, but one thing I’ve noticed in the invitation declines from Japanese friends over the years is that they rarely give reasons for declining… compared to my English-speaking friends who seem to always give reasons.
Instead, it was often just “I can’t that day” or “I have other plans” or… well, the stuff in our answers below…
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