A significant majority of people would agree with the sentiment that, at least every once in a while, they feel like they would like to have that special person in their life. We all go about finding that person in our own, yet familiar way to others. Some methods like the date at a restaurant or café are more commonplace while others like to try comparatively unconventional methods such as Internet or speed dating. The Japanese also have their own particular methods of finding the right catch. A lot of them resemble our own, but one of their more commonplace methods may not be so commonplace to you. This method is referred to as the Goukon (合コン, ごうこん).
The simplest term by which to call the 合コン in English would probably be a group date (of sorts). Here is how it generally works. Usually a guy from a certain group of friends collaborates with a lady friend of his to organize the event. He will bring himself and a certain number of guy friends, and the ladies will match that number. The seemingly most common number is three guys and three ladies. Most of the people at the 合コン, besides the two organizers, won’t know each other very well, if at all.
The setting for this hopeful event usually takes place at an Izakaya or some sort of establishment that serves alcohol. Once the venue has been selected and all the participants have arrived, everyone partakes in a bit of small talk while drinks are being ordered and delivered. Once, the drinks are in hand and “kanpai!” has been cheered, it is time for introductions. Everyone takes their turn giving a short rough introduction of themselves. There is no strict protocol as to how to deliver your self-introduction, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that this first impression will be a lasting one. It would be a good idea to choose your words well and creatively.
Once the introductions are finished, and a fair amount of the first drinks have been imbibed, then it is “game on.” Conversation will shift from this to that based on the mood of the evening and the personalities of the people at the table. The 合コン will usually last for about two hours or longer, as people are doing their best to get to know each other or hone in on someone that they liked from the very start. Again, there is no formal protocol during the talking process. After all, “all is fair in love and war” right?
When it comes time to wrap up the 合コン, people will figure out how to exchange their contact info with everyone of the other team, and if any sparks happened to fly that evening, then those couples will initiate “their own thing” independent of everyone else. If things went particularly well or fun for the overall group, there may be a second party of sorts at another venue where everyone can interact more. The second party can take place at any sort of establishment. Just go with the flow on that one.
So there is the rough description of the 合コン experience. If you have never tried or thought of such an activity, give it a shot. It can really take a lot of nerves and anxiety out of the process of finding the “right one.” It is very possible that nothing special will come of it, but the evening may very well be an enjoyable one and you can make new friends in the process at the very least. A classic case of “aim for the stars and hit the moon.” Just relax and enjoy yourself!