How Culturally Aware Are You?
By Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM, and James S. Rota
Have you heard people say they’re a right-brain or left-brain thinker? Right-brained thinkers tend to be creative and instinctual, left-brainers more analytical and logical. That’s how “Beauty and the Brains,” from the minds of Christy Lamagna and James Rota, was born. James’ creativity and vision mesh with Christy’s logistics focus and strategic thinking to bring a well-rounded approach to their events. These columns are designed to highlight both sides of the planning process and being culturally aware.
It’s a planner’s job to create events that welcome attendees from everywhere.
From the Brain
I grew up in a traditional Italian family. Christmas Eve was a night of seafood, grain pie was a staple at Easter and Struffoli were a sweet treat at both. We went to Mass every Sunday and we prayed to St. Anthony whenever we needed help finding a misplaced item.
It never occurred to me that there were other cultures, customs or celebrations. All I knew was the world I grew up in. As I got older, I became aware of other cultures, but I was hardly worldly in my knowledge. As a planner, I need to be sensitive to not just other cultures’ celebrations but their dietary habits, traditions, customs and cultures. I’ve learned about cultures I didn’t even know existed.
How culturally aware are you? Do you know when Diwali is? Do you know what Ramadan is or what customs must be followed during it? What do people from Asia eat for breakfast? What type of beer do folks from Australia prefer?
Do you have a prayer area set aside for guests who need to worship during the day? Does the band/DJ you’re hiring have a selection of music that spans the globe and not just the Top 10 charts?
Most of us know the myth about the number 13 causing bad luck. It’s not uncommon to find a hotel elevator that goes from 11 to 14. But what culture considers the number 4 bad luck? In what culture is the number 13 considered good luck?
So many questions and things to learn. As planners, we are expected to create welcoming environments for our guests. That means knowing what food to serve and what not to serve, what dates to avoid and what your guests need to feel at home. It’s not hard to do, it just takes a bit of research and attention to detail. It’s our job to treat all our guests with gracious hospitality. That’s the American way.
From the Beauty
I grew up in a small world but was an explorer by nature. I was always asking questions and looking at the world through my rose-colored creative glasses.
When I turned 13 my world changed with a bar mitzvah. I hadn’t even heard the word until then. My mother sent me off to the party with many questions unanswered. I sat there mesmerized by a strange new language and fascinating traditions. There was so much to take in, from the odd little hat I had to wear to the strange foods I was tasting.
I realized there was much to learn in this world. I vowed to explore as many cultures as I could and found that National Geographic would be my ticket to those faraway places. From those pages, I had a glimpse into the colorful and exotic worlds both far and near. As I grew older and broadened my horizons, I realized that I was living in a melting pot, not just a pot of Sunday gravy.
Colors, textures, customs and traditions along with foods, spices, music and native foliage all play a major role in creating an authentic experience. Today, with the Internet at our fingertips, the world is getting smaller. Do your research. It’s your job as, an extension of the host, to set the tone for guests.
Understanding cultural nuisances and protocol should be high on your list. Then find an element about the culture or demographic you find exciting and run with it. Have fun, be colorful and at all times, be respectful.
Tags: How Culturally Aware Are You, Culturally Aware, Culture, Event Planning, Strategic Planners, Corporate Meetings, Corporate Events, Strategic Events, Plan Your Meetings