Oh yes, because you get to mingle with your co-workers with their guard down. At work, they can be dickheads, but at the party you see them at a different level, in a more playful mode. They can be themselves. You get to meet their significant others, kids if they have any, who's doing who, who wants to do who. At the party, you can talk Ebonics and you don't care if people understand you. If you talked like that at work, people would look at you like you were crazy. Work is work, party is party.
If you're in a really regimented work environment where there's a very strict hierarchy and everyone has a very specific place, it's difficult. The idea is that everybody is supposed to be casual and friendly, but it's really not. There's a need to stay within the bounds of your place. So socializing is a bit stilted. You're laughing at their dumb jokes or you're doing casual conversation and smiling, acting like you're really happy to be spending time with them. It's not that you hate everybody, but you go because you're expected to go.
I really don't like going, but we're required to go. It makes the company look good. Everybody feels uncomfortable. Everybody has to go and you have to be nice to people who you really don't care that much about. Nobody really likes going. We're required to buy gifts for everybody that we work with. That can run up into the thousands of dollars. Last year, it was almost $1,500. If I wanted to associate with those people, I'd associate with them after work. I ain't got a choice. I have to go. I just wish they would serve more booze and less presents.