Meet Your Mate at a Compa Party?

December 22, 2008 at 4:06 pm

When I was in high school, the best way for girls to hang out with the boys they liked was to arrange a casual group date to the movies. We all drove separately and met outside the theater, and after the movie we had dinner or coffee at someplace cheesy like Denny’s. In a crowd, the pressure was off to constantly make conversation and you could also avoid the awkward goodbye at the end of the night (to kiss or not to kiss?). If it turned out you didn’t click with your crush, there was no risk of rejection; on the other hand, you also had a chance to figure out if you wanted to get together more privately some other time.

In Japan, this type of dating is called gokon or compa (short for the English word “companions”) and it’s a fairly common event in the lives of men and women in their 20s to early 30s.

You can read a humorous example here, but this is the gist of it: A man and a woman team up, decide on a time and place (probably a restaurant), and invite four or five friends each to come along. (Gender balance is key — everyone wants a potential match, so you can’t have an extra person of either sex.) Drinks are had, inhibitions lowered, and then everyone usually goes off to a second location, either for more drinks or karaoke.

gokon

Segregation of the sexes can sometimes be more pronounced in Japan than it is in the U.S. Men and women don’t always have an opportunity to interact at school or work, male/female friendships are not extremely common, and social groups tend to be all-male or all-female. In the evenings, salarymen are expected stay out late drinking with their male colleagues, while groups of women may hit the shopping mall or theater together, so gokon is a great way to bridge that gap.

Sarah S.

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