Or how Norwegians get drunk with their colleagues around dinner every year at the approach of Christmas.
The Julebord season has officially started in Norway, and here I’m going to try to describe what it is. First, Jule means Christmas, and bord table. So it’s pretty much a Christmas table. But it is usually with your colleagues and not your family. It didn’t happen last year for Corona reasons, but it’s starting strong this year in the restaurants in the whole country.
During the two months before Christmas, it is traditional that the company, or sometimes a company’s department if too many people are involved, buys dinner for the co-workers to spend a good time with each other, alcohol more or less included according to the company’s policy and budget. Restaurants, for that occasion, develop a specific offer between a 3 to 5 courses menu and/or sharing menu. After almost two years of work at distance for those who didn’t need to be at the workplace, the need is dire for colleagues bonding and shananigans.
Two years ago, I got pretty shocked at the restaurant where I am working (until tomorrow, so maybe where I used to work?) and wrote an op-ed for the local newspaper Bergens Tidende.
Here it is:
Here is the English version, before editing from the BT team:
Dear restaurants’ guests. On this pre-Christmas and full Julebord time, a few guidelines might be useful if you want to make sure your waiter/waitress doesn’t have a miserable time serving you: Please don’t get drunk and yell/threaten/talk aggressively if you’re being told to leave. This is a restaurant, not a bar, and don’t forget Norwegian laws are pretty strict. It also applies when you’re not drunk but the last guests of the restaurant. Your waiter/waitress does have a life, and often a last bus to take. If the restaurant is busy, yelling, waving or whistling for attention every five minutes won’t get you anywhere. And if you’re nice enough, you might even get an extra joke for your patience! When your waiter/waitress asks if you want something at the table, please don’t ignore him/her by staring at your menu and just talking to each other, acknowledge the question and answer that you’re deciding. Please don’t make your waiter/waitress responsible for a bookings’ mistake, it’s really not his/her job to deal with this. DO NOT touch your waiter/waitress, like EVER. Or stare at him/her, it’s super uncomfortable. Please do tip, and thank your waiter/waitress for their service. It doesn’t have to be much, but it always feels good. Reciprocity, kindness and respect are the keys to a happy meal (and service)!
The tradition is itself super nice, I think. You feel considered by your workplace that offers you a night out, and you get to discover your coworkers in a different setting. For my part, I have never experienced Julebord with the restaurant I’m currently quitting in two years and a half of loyal services, but I did it once with the guiding company I’m freelancing with. That was exceptionally cool because I got to meet the other guides that I had never met before, since we’re mostly working alone. Since then, Corona passed by and as I’m starting a new job at a new restaurant, I have no clue when it will happen again.
So on paper, it’s a pretty decent event for companies, but the problem is that a lot of people take it way too far, getting super duper drunk very fast and behaving quite poorly. Now, you expect that more in a bar, and bartenders have generally more leverage to make people go straight, but in restaurants, in the mix of other tables that have nothing to do with a company’s Julebord, things can get chaotic. Loud, as well. The worst thing I saw is two people starting to have sex (just touching under the clothes) at a table, but luckily it was a one time thing. The best thing I saw (and that happened many times) is a table really thanking you at the end, the boss being super nice and apologetic in case his/her employees had misbehaved.
As I’m starting a new job in the beginning peak of the Julebord season 2021, I just hope things will go well and that people will be more reasonable despite having undergone through so many restrictions during two years. Wish me luck!