An important step in becoming culturally competent in marketing is to recognize our own cultural biases.
In other words, what we do in this country is not necessarily how other people operate. The implication for multicultural marketing is that people from other cultures who are living in the United States may celebrate holidays and other special occasions differently from the mainstream.
Remember that what other people do that is different from the majority of Americans is not necessarily wrong it’s just different. Let’s take the simple example of Valentine’s Day:
In Japan, it is only the women who give presents (mainly chocolates) to men. In the past, Japanese women were often too shy to openly express their love so Valentine’s Day was thought to be an opportunity to let them express their feelings. Men are supposed to return gifts to women on a day called “White Day” (March 14th), a day totally made-up by the Japanese but certainly is an additional marketing opportunity!
In South Korea, like Japan, women give chocolate to men on February 14th, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14 (White Day). April 14th is called “Black Day” because men who did not receive anything on the 14th of February and women who did not receive anything on the 14th of March go to a Korean restaurant to eat black noodles and “mourn” their single life.
In Taiwan the situation is the reverse of Japan and South Korea. Men give gifts to women on Valentine’s Day, and women give gifts to men on White Day.
In China, Valentine’s is celebrated on the 7th day of 7th lunar month (August 23rd in 2012). On this auspicious day people in love like to go to the Temple of Matchmaker and pray for their love and the possible marriage in China. People still single will do the same thing to ask their luck of love in the Matchmaker temple.
In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is called “Araw ng mga Puso” or “Hearts Day”. It is usually marked by a steep increase in the prices of flowers (just like in the United States).
In India, Hindu and Islamic generally consider the holiday to be a form of cultural contamination from the West, so religious leaders often ask their followers to shun the holiday and the “public admission of love” because they are “alien to Indian culture”. Despite these obstacles, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular in India
While sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts is traditional on February 14th for Valentine’s Day in the United Kingdom in Denmark and Norway it is known as Valentinsdag and not celebrated to a large extent. However, some people take time to eat a romantic dinner with their partner, to send a card to a secret love or give a red rose to their loved one.
In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä which translates into “Friend’s day”. As the name implies, this day is more about remembering your friends, not only your loved ones. In Estonia Valentine’s Day is called Sõbrapäev, and has the same meaning.
In Slovenia, a proverb says that “St. Valentine brings the keys of roots”, so on February 14th, plants and flowers start to grow. As a result, this day is celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences.
In Romania, the traditional holiday for lovers is Dragobete, which is celebrated on February 24. In Lithuania and Latvia, it is common for people to put stickers on faces and clothing of a friend or a relative.
In Greece and Cyprus, Valentine’s Day are not major holidays but each year there are more red and white stuffed bears and heart-shaped candy boxes sold in stores.
According to Jewish tradition the 15th day of the month of Av – Tu B’Av (usually late August) is the festival of love. It is a popular day to pronounce love, propose marriage and give gifts like cards or flowers.
In some Latin American countries Valentine’s Day is known as “Día del Amor y la Amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). For example Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Puerto Rico, as well as others. It is also common to see people perform “acts of appreciation” for their friends. In Guatemala it is known as the “Día del Cariño” (Affection Day).
In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (literally “Lovers’ Day”) is celebrated on June 12th, probably because it is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as Saint of Marriage. Also, February 14th would fall too close to the biggest celebration in the country – Carnival.
In Egypt celebrating Valentine’s Day is a relatively new trend. On February 14th stores sell big red hearts and teddy bears for people in Cairo and other big cities who started taking it seriously during the late 1990s, as younger generations became more exposed to Western culture.
In Iran, the Sepandarmazgan, or Esfandegan, is an age-old traditional celebration of love, friendship and Earth. It has nothing in common with the Saint Valentine celebration, except for a superficial similarity in giving affection and gifts to loved ones, and its origins and motivations are completely unrelated. In fact, in 2011 the production of Valentine’s Day gifts as well as any promotion of the day celebrating romantic love between a man and a woman has been banned by the country’s leaders.
In most other Muslim countries practitioners of this religion are regularly warned against celebrating Valentine’s Day since they believe it is linked it with vice activities.
So happy Valentine’s Day wherever you live! Just keep in mind how differently this day is celebrated (or not) in other parts of the world