After a hard day at work, many middle-aged Japanese salarymen love to go out for drinks at the local bar or izakaya. “But it’s no fun to go alone!” thinks the 45-year-old section chief. “Why not invite those young hotshots that entered the company earlier this year? Surely they’d love the chance to loosen neckties and enjoy some laid-back conversation with one of their seniors outside the workplace!”
Meanwhile, the young hotshots are thinking about how they can’t wait to go home and relax after another consecutive day of (unpaid) overtime—but oh wait, section chief wants to go out drinking again and turning his invitation down would show that I’m not a team player.
Such are the troubles of 20 and 30-year-old working men and women who are roped out to drinking with their middle-aged colleagues time and time again.
This generation gap was a popular enough topic for Nikkan Spa to conduct a survey of 200 20 and 30-year-old men and women as to what they found most irritating about drinking with their superiors in their 40s.
First off, to understand the survey it helps to look at what makes the 40-50 age group so special.
Men who are now in their 40s entered the workforce during the prosperous economic bubble era of Japan, a period of stability, wealth and hope for even the youngest employee. On the other hand, the younger generation are more familiar with a failing economy and job scarcity. As such, the complaints of the older generation can often sound luxurious to the younger generation, earning their irritation. Add alcohol to that equation and the rift widens even more!
However, drinking with colleagues is an important part of Japanese work place culture. The hierarchy in the company is very important too, as it is in most parts of life in Japan. For the juniors of the company these days, going drinking with people from work is much more of an extension of work itself, rather than a chance to spend an enjoyable evening drinking with respected colleagues. Yet in the bubble era, drinking with your superiors was looked upon as more of a privilege than anything.
With this in mind, let’s look at the results of the survey in full. The percentage of people who said they are subjected to such conversation topics is shown in parenthesis.
■ “The Top 10 Things Japanese Men in Their 40s Say While Out Drinking That Make Their Coworkers Hate Them”
1. Talking on and on about how difficult loan payments are and about how costly the kids are (95%)
2. Recommending expensive cars and watches (94%)
3. Lamenting over not being able to perform sexually (Must be quite drunk) (92%)
3. Commenting on how easy it is to be single with a condescending laugh (92%)
3. Suggesting the need to hurry up and have kids, or asking why you are not married (92%)
6. Giving unasked opinions and advice about romantic relationships (90%)
7. Talking about how they are looking to ‘fall in love,’ even though they have a wife and kids (85%)
8. Asking younger female coworkers whether they think 40 isn’t too late to fall in love (83%)
9. Giving advice about how important it is to have fun while you are young (76%)
10. Boasting about the travels he took when he was young (68%)
Young people complain that the topics of conversation are the same old thing over and over, the most prominent ones being about “how difficult loan payments are”, and “how much money having children costs.”
These are complaints you hear all the time these days, but a 31-year-old man working in electronics commented, “This is the life they chose for themselves, and they act like they met with such disaster!” A 28-year-old man working in printing said, “After complaining about their situations, they always throw in: ‘It must be nice to be single, (laugh)’, and they say it condescendingly.”
They are reported to recommend expensive cars and watches to their juniors. A 25-year old man in real estate commented that, “It’s like he wants to make sure I know the difference in our salaries.” A 28-year old man in the apparel industry added, “It is like he wants us to know that he could afford such things from a young age. It is unfair.”
The 40-something age group is also disliked for giving unwanted advice about romance after a few drinks. A 27-year-old chemist went on to say, “They have a wife and kids, but they declare that they wish they could have a romantic relationship. They go around asking the younger women at work if they think a 40-year-old man could have a chance at a relationship with women their age. They seem to be enjoying the reactions they are getting, which is incredibly irritating.”
So there you have it! Yikes! It is no wonder the birthrate is so low in Japan! All but number 10 don’t make anybody want to go there! Honestly though, there are some 40 somethings who are worthy mentors to the 20 and 30 somethings, even in Japan!