As a Yank PR guy who’s had the great fortune of working for this wonderful little company called Icebreaker for three years, I’d heard the tales about the annual New Zealand Christmas Party. This year, luck and timing took me to Wellington for a big strategic planning meeting, which was timed around the annual festivities.
First, coming from the land of Political Correctness (the USA, where this would be called a “Holiday Party”), I have to say how wonderfully refreshing it was to throw PC to the wind! These Kiwis know how to party, laugh, let loose and have fun. Wow, how liberating that is!
The theme for this year’s party was The Love Boat, and all the New Zealand Icebreakers were divided into teams (9-10 people), and were given $300 to design their own costumes. This is a highly secretive process.
I was invited to join the Icebreaker Surf Life Saving Club team, and we immediately changed our names to become our Surf Alter Egos: Chad, Kandi, Rock, etc.
We wore authentic New Zealand Life Saving Club shorts and floppy hats, and screened our own IBSLSC t-shirts. We also were outfitted with well-filled drink bottles, swimming caps, zinc to paint/decorate ourselves with, “sunnies, whistles, beach balls and bumbags.”
At the anointed hour, all the teams gathered for the party’s start in the 2nd floor kitchen. And what a spectacle! There were teams dressed as Popeye & Olive Oyl, Sharks, Damaged Goods, Modern Day Pirates, Cruise Ship Entertainers, Baywatch cast members and more. The bubbly was passed around, and the celebration of an amazing year (and a ton of work) began.
I’ve been told that Icebreaker has been banned at many establishments because of their parties – and that now we resort to bookings under assumed names. This year, the Social Committee brought in some party experts – event company CluedUp – and we were soon greeted by the Love Boat captain and first mate, who escorted us outside to our surprise destination. We began in Waitangi Park alongside Lambton Harbour with a giant rope tug of war, followed by a hilarious game of tag, then an all-team conga line.
The unruly bunch was then walked over to Parade Cafe a few blocks away where the top floor was converted into a gaming casino and teams competed for chips. After dinner, everyone moved to the downstairs disco in the hull where we were entertained by a breakdance group, some awesome drummers and, yes, political correctness aside, a beautiful burlesque stripper. (This would never happen in the States!). Everyone then got down to dancing! At a certain point the lights were turned on and the remaining everyones were kicked out!
The next day at 10:45 everyone is required to show up at the ‘Xmas Party Hangover Goodness Gathering’ for pies and sausage rolls in the kitchen. (Hangovers are called “hurt heads” by the Kiwis.) Not much work is expected to get done (in past years some folk have even managed to sleep under their desks), but it’s good for people to see each other, and lots of people headed off to “work from home” later in the day.
Some favorite memories:
- All the Icebreaker men who couldn’t wait to wear women’s clothing as soon as the party began. (Is this a Kiwi and/or European or Icebreaker thing?)
- Our Icebreaker Surf Life Saving Club team composing our raunchy “Slip, Slop, Slap” song (you’ll have to get the lyrics from someone else).
- All Staff emails the next morning, asking if anyone out there went home with my jeans shorts, sunglasses, hired costumes etc!
The Love Boat has sailed off to 2011. Happy holidays, everyone! Be safe and well.
- Lee Weinstein, Icebreaker Communications