Cultural holidays, symbolism, food prep: How will your event accommodate the multicultural market?

The beauty of the Asia-Pacific region is most apparent in its rich multicultural history. Spanning over twenty countries—including China, Fiji, Thailand and the Philippines—the territory is home to a wealth of coexisting cultures and practices. Planning an event for such a diverse market can mean paying respects to the factors that shape its diversity, such as cultural holidays, symbolism and food preparation. Event planners can create culturally engaging and sensitive events by understanding how culture can impact their attendees’ diets, social interactions and schedules. Ultimately, certain accommodations make a significant difference in who can attend and enjoy your events across the region. Use our tips below to develop the best event for a diverse audience.

Check Your Calendar

When scheduling an event, be sure to note important cultural dates, periods or annual events. Important celebrations—such as a country’s independence day or regional festivals—can make for limited traffic and interest from attendees. Certain cultures prohibit members from travelling or eating during the day or outside the country throughout select periods. If you’re unsure about the timing of an event, keep a cultural calendar handy to ensure your event isn’t coinciding with an important holiday. Don’t forget to give your event buffer space: Some larger events, such as Chinese New Year, require preparation weeks in advance. Try not to schedule your event less than two weeks before a significant cultural holiday.

Test Your Treats

Diets and food preparation preferences are often dictated by cultural norms. For example, some cultures require halal or kosher certification for food and beverages. People in other cultures, such as in much of India, may observe strict vegetarian or vegan diets. Other attendees may avoid consuming certain foods at specific times of the day or during specific times of the year. Always prepare a menu with many options your attendees can choose from. Prominently display food certifications, or be prepared to supply them if prompted. Offer alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverage options to attendees. Share your menu in advance so guests can make conscious decisions about their meals. Collaborate with local chefs who are well-versed in cultural and ethnic culinary delights to provide an authentic dining experience for your attendees. In some regions, it is common to eat with the fingers or with chopsticks, so provide a range of options for dinnerware and cutlery.

What to Avoid

Cultural practices and beliefs dictate what symbols are considered offensive or unsavory, so when creating or marketing an event, planners need to be aware of the connotation of various symbols, words, graphics and even colors. For example: In China, pears are considered a symbol of bad luck, eggs and lotus root must not be given as gifts, and the color black and the number 4 are associated with evil and poor luck. In Thailand, crows and gifts with fish symbols are considered a sign of bad luck. When searching for the right floral arrangement, avoid lilies and chrysanthemums; these are reserved for funerals in China, Thailand and Korea. Creating the perfect multicultural event requires special consideration of cultural and regional norms. With a little research and respect, you can easily deliver an event that can be enjoyed by all.