Cultural differences as spices of international events

January 19, 2016 by Bojana Crnadak

Like every well prepared dish needs the right amount of selected spices, so does the preparation of an international event require the right touch of respecting the cultural differences. It seems easy at first, but it is a fact that demands continuous learning.

When it comes to event preparation it is all about the details: you miss one and you may cause a chain reaction. Preparing events for local communities has the great advantage of knowing the local business etiquette and tradition; organizing events for international audience, however, may spice up the preparations and coordination among stakeholders. When an event is delivered in your own country, it is more easily manageable and allows you to focus on the cultural differences of expected international guests. For example, the CEF once hosted a Japanese reception which took event preparation to new dimensions: researching of the Japanese business etiquette and traditions of their business gatherings. Among the guests there was also a large international community present. Therefore it was crucial to decide: to what extent to respect the cultural differences? Whether to stick to the basics or strive for perfection?

Japanese reception at the CEF, Slovenia.

A step further is the preparation of an international event in a foreign country where you are not (so well) familiar with their business traditions and market rules. For more than five years I was dealing with event organization and coordination of Communities of Practice in Europe and Central Asia. I was in touch, on a daily basis, with many cultures and dealing with various business etiquettes. It was always the question how to balance cultural differences among a large international community. I had to keep in mind that nobody should stand out and no one should be left out. Not to mention that the whole event preparation had to be coped with in several languages. Looking back today, cultural differences significantly spiced up event preparations. After returning home from every mission I had become richer in knowing a new tradition or two. It is a special kind of accomplishment and a great knowledge base for future tasks.

There is no universal recipe for dealing with cultural differences. My advice is: do not overdo it when it comes to cultural differences. It is more important to keep the right balance and to approach the subject with a bit of personal touch.