Tag Archives: 2012

Latest Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter is Out Now – December 2012

Culture Coach International just finished releasing the Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter for December 2012. The theme of the month is Combining Old and New, which takes a metaphorical look at how diversity initiatives require both new and old resources in order to be effective.

This month’s holiday features Junkanoo in the Bahamas: This post Christmas Day celebration is believed to date back to the 17th century and is filled with colors, costumes and street carnivals.

We also included the international secular and religious holidays for the month of December, alongside some interesting proverbs and idioms from Hawaii, Russia and Korea.

For a complete look at the newsletter, click here. If you are interesting in signing up to receive the monthly tip in your inbox each month, sign up here.

Hispanic Electorate is Likely to Double by 2030

A recent report released by the Pew Hispanic Center examines the record turnout of Hispanic voters in the 2012 election and what this indicates about the future of the American voting-eligible population.  The report covers both past and projected voting demographics as well as the factors contributing to the growth of minority voting blocs such as naturalization trends.

The 2012 Presidential election brought with it renewed attention to the growing influence of minority voting blocs after exit polls showed Obama claimed the majority of votes from Latinos and Asian-Americans. This turn of events gave Obama an important edge over Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who won a majority of the white American vote.


Obama nabbed more than 70 percent of the votes among Latinos and Asian Americans. Just a few years ago, those two blocs were up for grabs in regard to party affiliation. For example, President George W. Bush took 40 percent of the Latino votes, compared to Romney’s 23 percent.

Looking to future elections, the Hispanic voting bloc is projected to account for 40% of the growth in the eligible electorate in the US between now and 2030.  In real numbers this means that in 2030, 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote, a substantial increase from the 23.7 million in 2012.  So as far as the growing power of minority voting blocs, Hispanics have the top position with the highest projected growth rate of any voting bloc.

In addition to all these factors influencing the size of minority voting blocs, there is the as-yet-unknowable size and impact of future immigration. About 24 million Hispanic immigrants have come to the U.S. in the past four decades.  This is the largest concentrated wave of arrivals among any ethnic or racial group in U.S. history. Some 45% arrived in the U.S. legally, and 55% arrived illegally. It is projected that immigrants who arrived after 2005, and their U.S.-born descendants, will account for 82% of the projected national population increase during the next 40 years. It is also projected that during this time frame, the Hispanic population will account for 60% of the nation’s population growth. If these trends are correct, the Hispanic population, along with other minority-voting blocs, may have significant influence on future elections.


For more information or to download this report, visit the Pew Hispanic Center webpage at: http://www.pewhispanic.org/

Spanish Magazine Stirs Up Controversy over Culturally Insensitive Portrayal of Michelle Obama as a Slave

Left: The original portrait of a former slave from Guadalupe known as the “Portrait d’une négresse” by French artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist. To the right is Karine Percheron-Daniels’ work portraying Michelle Obama’s face, picked up and published by Fuera de Serie in their August 12, 2012 edition.

Since Fuera de Serie, the ‘lifestyle’ portion of the Spanish magazine Exposicion, released its August 12, 2012 edition, media attention across the Atlantic has been slowly grabbing on to the controversial front cover: a rendition of Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s painting of a slave from Guadeloupe with the face of Michelle Obama superimposed on it. This piece, which is part of a larger series of celebrities being featured on prominent works of art by Karine Percheron-Daniels, has struck a cord with Americans and the portrayal of their First Lady. Many in the United States find it racist and distasteful as they wonder how any magazine could promote such an image that conjures up so much emotion and negative history. However, when you get down to the bottom line, there are clear cultural differences between the Spanish and Americans that have created this controversy, and understanding how each culture interprets the historical context of slavery through their ‘cultural filters’, or lenses, may help to assuage those deeply offended by this image.

As Americans, we come equipped to view things with our own ‘cultural filters’ because of our national history, upbringings, and societal values. As such, this  image easily conjures up the not-so-distant memory of American slavery, the relatively recent fight for African-American civil rights, and the current prejudices and racial inequalities that many racial minorities in America still face today.  It is easy to see why, given our country’s tumultuous history, that the image would be interpreted by many as racist or distasteful. Similarly, many women in the United States were discouraged at seeing the First Lady portrayed in a sexually provocative and objectified way. In her response to the article, Althea Legal-Miller of Clutch magazine summarizes the voice of descent when she says that the portrait reinforces the “historical denial of black women’s individuality and agency” and speaks to a “painful history of exploitation and erotic objectification, which continues to manifest in multiple contexts across the black female diaspora.”

For the Spanish, who have a completely different historical background, society, and culture, they might not have realized the extent of their blunder when making the decision to mass produce the image. In general, Spain has been a relatively progressive nation in the history of the abolition of slavery. In 1542, the Spanish Empire attempted to instate the first European law abolishing colonial slavery. By 1811, Spain had abolished slavery at home and in all of their colonies except Cuba, Puerto Rico, and San Domingo and by 1817 they had paid Britain a value of 400,000 euro to stop the trade to those colonies. Slavery continued to exist in the Spanish colonies and overseas territories until the 1860s, yet this historical information was far removed from the mainland where a minimal portion of the population is of African or indigenous American decent.  With the fall of the Spanish Empire, Spain became a very poor country further torn apart by the Civil War of the 1930s and the despotic rule of Francisco Franco from 1936-1975 that culturally and economically isolated Spain from the rest of the world. Like most poor countries with little economic opportunities, Spain’s population became increasingly more homogenized until the 1980s when it cast off its dictator, Francisco Franco, joined the European Union, and saw huge growth and prosperity in its economy during the economic boom of the 1990’s. Since then, Moroccans, Chinese, Pakistanis, Ecuadorians, and Eastern Europeans have come to Spain in large numbers to seek better lives for themselves. Given this relatively new ‘phenomenon’ of immigration in Spain, a history of isolation and little internal turmoil with regards to slavery, it may be possible that the magazine editors were culturally blind to the offensive nature of the picture.

However, in a world where technology breaks all international barriers in an instant, this type of cultural unawareness is no longer acceptable.  Given the article’s content, the editors at Magazine Fuera de Serie clearly intended a positive depiction of the First Lady, as a powerful female figure who has come to dominate the popularity poles with her grace and prowess in the White House. Their huge oversight in not realizing that the magazine cover would be internationally contested shows a severe cultural competency problem at the company and specifically on the part of those editors in charge of making final decisions. Had they undergone some desperately needed culturally competency training, they may have had enough awareness so that at least someone would say: “Wait, since this is a tribute to an American leader and will probably be viewed by Americans and people all over the world on the internet, let me call my American contact over in New York and get some feedback on how an American might view the idea and representation.” I can assure you whoever that contact would be would probably have told the editors to go back to the drawing board.

Indeed, Michelle Obama is a symbol of strength for women and African Americans in the US and around the world and no controversial picture can alter that fact. The culturally insensitive actions of the magazine only help to underline how important it is to have awareness of other cultures, especially in an age where technology and marketing on the internet make every company visible globally. For those Americans who were understandably deeply offended by the picture, it goes to show how powerful cultural filters can be that a message clearly intended as a compliment could be so easily misconstrued. Hopefully as we become aware of the impact of our American cultural views on slavery, the role of women, and sexuality in society and how vastly different it is from the cultural views of Spain, there may be some room for understanding and forgiveness.

Let us know what you think below…

Sensitive Cross Cultural Snafus Highlighted During the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London

Official Logo of the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Photo Courtesy of Roebot via Flickr

The 2012 London Summer Olympics came to an end this past weekend, highlighting the intensely competitive global sporting world. There were approximately 980 individual medals awarded during these 2012 Olympic games, and considering how many opportunities this represents to make a cultural error, there were only a few notable mistakes to be had. However, those few mistakes become very significant because they undermined the extensive efforts made by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic (LOCOG) for cross-cultural and diversity training prior to the opening ceremonies. The LOCOG was the first committee in Olympic history to make diversity and inclusion a priority of the event, offering a four-hour training session at Wembley Arena to its 70,000 volunteers and paid staff; sourcing from minority owned businesses; and selecting volunteers that represented the diverse population of London. Without a doubt, these efforts by the LOCOG have been the most extensive undertaken by any host city in the history of the games. However, back in March, British papers released articles reporting that volunteers felt the training was patronizing and that the Olympic committee did not trust in the common sense of the people to handle basic issues about race, gender, orientation, and ethnicity. These reports and the cultural gaffes witnessed early on in the games are an indication that the training program may have serious holes and may need to be reassessed and reworked before the games in Rio De Janeiro 2016.

One of the more serious cultural mistakes of the 17-day event took place before the opening ceremonies even began. The North Korean women’s soccer team was introduced on the megatron with a picture of the South Korean flag posted next to the players’ names and pictures. The severity of such a mistake lies in the fact that South Korea and North Korea have been at war with each other for over 50 years. North Korean players refused to take the field for over an hour until referees the error was corrected. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially apologized later that evening, but the event had been marred for both teams and countries involved in the controversy.

Another example of a lack of cultural understanding was during the medal acceptance ceremony for Hungarian Aron Szilagyi, who won gold in the men’s individual saber (fencing) competition. Standing on the podium, he was greatly disappointed when the recording of the Hungarian national anthem was played so incredibly out of tempo that it was unrecognizable. It was noted that Aron attempted to sing along with the national anthem, but was unable to keep up with the pace of the version recorded. The London Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra recorded each anthem individually for the participating nations about a year ago during a six-day crammed recording session. The event received much criticism from the Hungarian officials and citizens via twitter.

Interestingly, neither of these mistakes came from the volunteers who went through the diversity and inclusion training, rather, but rather from the paid technical specialists working behind-the-scenes at the Olympics. These specialists also received diversity and inclusion training, yet in keeping up with the hectic task of making sure events would run smoothly, the technical staff may have lapsed on their cultural sensitivity training when it was needed the most. These staff members, including cameramen, audio/sound techs, announcers, and the slew of other programmers, play a vital role in the successful operations of the Olympics and also have a very visible role to the billions of people who watch the games. In hindsight, the North Korean soccer team blunder might have easily been solved if these staff had better on-hand cultural competency training materials while working in the field. Individual binder presentations outlining the core customs, language, religion, and history of the teams in the line-up for the day’s events can prove an effective refresher tool for technicians who may not remember the cultural training from earlier in the year. These materials, including basic information on the country, a picture of the flag, a pronunciation guide to team player names, etc. could be an easy last double-check before going live. Not everyone is aware of the political, historic, or ethnic tensions between peoples and nations, but having the tools to gain this information on-site may help prevent such a mistake at the 2016 summer Olympic games when once again the world will be paying attention.

For the London Symphony Orchestra and the development staff behind the recordings of the anthems, it would have been important to verify the anthem chosen with the staff from each country before going to recording, and then once again when the recording has finalized. Stopping to think about the impact a national anthem has for an athlete standing upon a podium and their fellow countrymen and women viewing the event is a momentous occasion that is deserving of more careful consideration, culturally speaking, than perhaps 6 days can give in order to record 180 plus national anthems.

The Olympics are an incredible time for people from around the world to come together and to share a common experience. And, there are surely numerous examples of wonderful cross-cultural experiences that were had at the games. At the same time, very public and embarrassing gaffes, like what happened with the flag and the anthem, also highlight the need to provide more cross cultural training and the need to provide key reference materials for them when they are making critical decisions. The Olympics are an opportunity for the IOC to help people to gain a better understanding of the cultures of the world. One way that this can occur is by providing training that both helps the Olympics to go off without any public cultural gaffes and provides insights into the vast tapestry that makes the Olympics the largest cross cultural event in the world.

Cultural Quick Tip Newsletter is Here for August 2012!

Feeling vulnerable in a time of transition can be difficult in the workplace, but is essential for growth. Just as a hermit crab must leave its shell in order to find a new, larger one, so must an employee change with the growth of a company. Having clear goals and roles can help your employees feel less vulnerable during this time.

We have just released the August edition of the Cultural Quick Tip for those of you who are signed up to receive it in your inbox. This month’s newsletter features the international holiday dates for the month, cultural quick tip on acknowledging vulnerability in the workplace, idioms and proverbs from various cultures, and a holiday spotlight on Honey Spas, Russia’s honey harvest and summer’s last hurrah. Click here to check it out for the month of August, and if you’d like to subscribe to next month’s newsletter, please send us an email: admin@culturecoach.biz or visit our webpage to fill out a simple request form.

Lag B’omer

May 10, 2012

The Significance of Lag B’omer

For Jews across the word, but particularly for those in Israel, May 10 is the date in 2012 to celebrate the minor Jewish holiday of Lag B’omer and the mystery surrounding its many significances. On the Hebrew calendar it is always the 33rd day of the Count of Omer, which starts on Passover and continues until Shavuot, the next major Jewish Holiday exactly 7 weeks apart.

Multiple families spend the night next to a bonfire in Israel for Lag B'omer (Photo by Katherine Martinelli via Flickr)

The Meaning and History of Lag B’omer

The meaning behind the holiday is a source of confusion for Jews as there area number of stories linked to the date. For some, it is inherently tied to a 1st century sage known as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who is given credit for writing the Zohar, the principle work that is found in the Kabbalah, the Jewish book of mysticism. He is believed to be the first teacher of the dimension and the date of his passing also happens to fall on this date.

For others, the Talmud tells of a story that Lag B’omer is a day of mourning for a plague that befell upon many of the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, which occurred during the Counting of the Omer and eventually ceased on this date. Story has it that many of the students died from the plague sent by God because “they did not show proper respect to one another” [Yevamot:62:2].

Still, there is a third connection to the holiday in conjunction with the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the second century. Romans had decreed that Jews could not celebrate a new month with a bonfire. When the sovereign state of Israel was temporarily restored for a two year period afterwards, the date of Lag B’omer would come to commemorate the date of this important freedom.

Kids gather scraps of wood in a Jerusalem neighborhood for the bonfire on Lag B'omer (Photo by Craig Heimburger)

Customs & Traditions of Lag B’omer

For weeks and months before Lag B’Omer, children will gather scraps of wood around their homes for the traditional bonfire. While conservative Jews often criticize the meaning of the bonfire, it nonetheless represents the light that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought into the world upon teaching the Zohar to his students. For many, it is the appropriate time to take a pilgrimage to his final resting place in the village of Meron in Northern Israel where a 24 hour period of festivities in held in his honor. Lag B’omer is also a popular time for Israeli’s to travel to Djerba, an island off the coast of Tunisia, where the oldest synagogue still stands.

Children celebrate this day by playing with bows and arrows as symbols of the victory during the Kokhba Revolt. Others say that this children’s activity commemorates the time of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the appearance of not a single rainbow. For Jews, the symbol of a rainbow signified that God would not bestow destruction on earth ever since it was seen after the Great flood during the time of Noah. Since the Rabbi was such a force of light in the world at the time, it is believed that God decided that no rainbows were necessary to reassure the people as long as he was present on the earth. The bows represent the rainbow shape itself, but have since been replaced with actual bows and arrows when before it was probable that it was just an arched piece of wood.

Some may also eat Carobs during this day to remember the story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son surviving as outlaws from the Romans while living in a cave in Northern Israel. The carob tree was one of their sources of nourishment where it grew in front of the cave.

Weddings, haircuts, and music are permitted for the most devout Jews from Lag B’omer and onwards as it marks the end of the mourning period.

Australia & New Zealand Remember Their Fallen Soldiers on ANZAC Day – April 25

ANZAC Cove Memorial in Gallipoli, Turkey

Today is ANZAC day in Australia and New Zealand, a day that marks the landing of these two nation’s soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey and the first major combat seen by both troops during World War I. ANZAC, meaning Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, is a rare example of a public remembrance day holiday celebrated by two sovereign nations. In general, it is a somber day filled with tributes to fallen soldiers from all wars, similar to Veterans’ Day in the United States, but also a time for patriotism and for appreciating the freedoms secured through history.

The decision to attack the German aligned Ottoman Empire was originally designed to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway into the Black Sea and one of the only non land routes that would allow allied troops into the area. Early on, the British generals underestimated the strength of the Turks and hastily mounted a naval attack alongside their French counterparts. The Turks quickly sank several ships and it was decided that the only way to win Istanbul and the Dardanelles was to make a mass landing near Gallipoli. The ANZACs were called upon to make the landing alongside the rest of the allied forces as they were stationed in nearby Egypt at the time. Sailing from Egypt to Turkey and arriving in the predawn hours of April 25, the

Modern Day Image of the City of Gallipoli, Turkey

ANZAC troops were ordered into small boats and went ashore, knowing that they would need to go as far inland as possible to make room for more troops coming ashore later on. However, what they did not know was that the Turkish forces were well prepared and waiting for their arrival. Under heavy fire, the ANZACS rushed ashore. To their dismay, they had landed in the wrong place and were caught off guard. At the end of the day some 2,000 ANZAC soldiers lay dead. Within the first week, some 6,000 would be among the count of the over 10,000 ANZACs that would perish in the entire 8 month campaign. In the end, it was eventually decided that the battle of Gallipoli, which was fought over the area the size of two football fields, was too costly to continue and the ANZAC troops were soon evacuated.

CWGC Commonwealth Cemetery in Gallipoli, Turkey

One year after the battle in 1916, ANZAC day got its official name and many ceremonies and tributes were given in both countries to commemorate the service of the fallen. By 1920, New Zealand had declared the day a public holiday, with Australia following by the end of the decade depending on the state or territory. Since World War II, ANZAC day has come to symbolize the remembrance of not just only those who died during Gallipoli and World War I, but all of the military men and women who have served throughout the years.

On ANZAC day, commemoration services held at dawn are popular along with parades and other processions through the streets. Two-up, a gambling game involving two or three coins and popular with soldiers in WWI and beyond, is played in pubs and other venues across the two countries. Others will tune in to watch Australian Rules Football or Rugby matches.

Diversity and Inclusion Training Continue at the Olympic Games in London for 2012

I’ve been reading a lot about some of the diversity and inclusion training efforts going on at the Olympic games and the press (some good, some bad) that is associated with it. I am glad it is getting done, as the olympics are the prime stage for the world to celebrate its diverse heritage. That being said, the Telegraph published this story about some of the questions being proposed to the volunteers in order for them to better address the guests and athletes that will be coming from around the world to London this summer. While some have found it patronizing, such as in this article, I think in the end that many of the volunteers will remember this time when these questions do pop up, and will be better equipped to handle them. Here is the article from the Telegraph this morning below:

Click here for the original article. If you are interested in seeing some of the questions being proposed to the volunteers, click here.

Maha Shivaratri – February 20

In honor of Lord Shiva, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated each year on the 14th night of the new moon during the month of Phalguna according to the Hindu calendar. The moonless night is occasion for offering prayers to Lord Shiva who is also known as the Lord of Destruction. In Sanskrit, the name of the holiday literally translates into “Shiva’s night” (“ratri” means night) and celebrations start at night and continue into the following day. For Hindus across the Asian Subcontinent, offerings will be made to Shiva in the form of bael leaves (a tree native to India), and a day long fast and nightlong vigil will be held. Additionally, penance is performed to aid in mediation practices and hymns and other songs will keep patrons up long into the morning.

Upcoming dates 2012 & 2013

2012: February 20

2013: March 10

Historical Origin
One of the many legends behind the holiday comes from the Puranas. (Hindu texts that recount the creation of the universe and lineage of the Gods) During the Samudra Manthan (a mythical account of the churning of the oceans), many things emerged from the ocean, including a pot filled with poison that made the Gods fearful for the survival of creation. They asked Lord Shiva to protect them as he was the only one who would be able to swallow the poison without being affected. As Lord Shiva drank the poison, Parvati, his wife, pressed his neck and stopped the poison from going into his stomach. As a result, the strong effects of the poison turned his neck blue, but Lord Shiva remained unscathed. For a list of other legends associated with the holiday, please visit here.

As with the number of legends associated with the day, there are also a number of customs and rituals to perform. Hindus will bathe early in the morning and later will visit temples on masse to offer prayers and light incense for the day. For women, the Shivaling (a ceremony representing Lord Shiva) is performed to receive grace from God by pouring water or milk on the statue. Married women will pray for the well being of the male members of their family, and single women will ask for a noble man like Lord Shiva will ask her to marry him in the future.

These items are essential for the worship of Shiva according to the Purana:
1) Water, milk, honey, bael leaves – purification
2) Vermilion paste – virtue
3) Betel leaves (a type of vine and stimulant) – satisfaction and pleasure
4) Rice, fruits, and other food items – longevity and health
5) Incense – wealth
6) Lamp – attainment of knowledge

Most Hindus will fast during this day, which is why there is not a special dish related to the holiday. For those who are not fasting but would like to show devotion, a grain less and cereal less dish is common.

Countries where it is celebrated
Maha Shrivaratri is celebrated by Hindus across the globe, but particularly in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Fiji, Bangladesh, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname and Mauritius.

If you found this post helpful and want a comprehensive list of international holidays, then you might be interested in our company’s calendar with over 1400 other international holidays, check it out here.

New Zealand Celebrate Waitangi Day – February 6, 2012

A Day of Cultural Awareness 

Waitangi Day, considered New Zealand’s ‘National Day,’ is recognized every February 6th as the anniversary of the signing of the Waitangi treaty in 1840 between members of the British Empire and several Maori chiefs in an area called the Bay of Islands. With it, a governor was established on the island and its rule would fall under the British Crown. In the years after the signing New Zealand went through decades of division, but has since made great efforts to promote bicultural awareness and diversity across the islands.

As French nationals involved in the whaling industry started buying up land on the island in hopes of one day supporting a colony of their own, the British began recognizing the need to officially colonize the territory to secure it from foreign occupation. By 1840 the solution was clear. Significant Maori chiefs would sign the Treaty of Waitangi and New Zealand would fall under control of the British Crown. The document would then be taken around the country and eventually received the signatures of nearly 500 local Chiefs.

Since the original signing the interpretations of the Treaty have varied significantly, but initially the Maori chiefs believed that by ceding their rights of control they would receive protection from the British without having to give up the right to govern their own ethnic people. For the British, the signing of the Treaty meant that they would govern all of the New Zealand’s affairs thereafter and that the Maori would fall under these laws.

While many Maori have referenced the document for decades of land loss and discrimination by the government, the New Zealand authorities had largely ignored the implications of it until the commissioning of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975 to inquire about charges on claims brought by the Maori relating to actions that breached the original Treaty. While protesting on this day has continued to be a common sight, New Zealand has made great efforts to address cultural issues stemming from the Treaty and beyond.

Since Waitangi Day became a national level holiday in 1974, efforts by the New Zealand government to provide bicultural options for Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori) have increased significantly. Schooling is now possible through university levels in Maori (Kura Kaupapa Māori schools) or English, and intermarriage between the two groups is high. More than ever, New Zealand has celebrated the day to recognize the need for multiculturalism and identity within the country, and serves as a reminder to respect all cultures on the island.

As a day of celebrating New Zealand culture, there are many cultural events going on throughout the country. Maori cultural performances, speeches from cultural leaders, and military processions are all part of the day. In Auckland, the largest city, sail boats and wakas (traditional Maori boats) will gather at a designated beach where a large Haka (Maori traditional dance) will be performed. In smaller events, families will gather at the beach and celebrate with fireworks and foods such as hot dogs, whitebait fritters, and assorted meats and veggies prepared in a hangi (barbeque with heated rocks in a pit over).

Birthday of Juan Pablo Duarte, Dominican Republic – January 26

January 26, 2012

Biography of Juan Pablo Duarte: Founding Father of the Dominican Republic

Today the Dominican Republic, a small nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti in the Caribbean ocean, celebrates the birthday of the founding father of their nation: Juan Pablo Duarte. The nation remembers the struggle for freedom nearly two centuries ago and the man who lead them to independence. It is a public holiday celebrated on the closest Monday to January 26, with minor celebrations and colonial re-enactments taking place throughout the country.

Born in 1813, Duarte was the son of a wealthy Spanish merchant and a homemaker of Dominican and Spanish decent. His privileged social status allowed young Duarte to experience the rest of the world on a first hand basis; receiving a superb education abroad as was customary of the times with a promising son. The pursuit of education would lead him to New York, where he witnessed the transitioning nation to a powerful industrial state, and to France during their time of social revolution. On his journey he adapted many of the ideologies of revolutionary France and liberal America. Upon his return to Dominican Republic and his family’s business, Duarte discovered that his beloved nation had transformed into something closer to a dictatorship after many years of autonomy from Spanish rule.

The Dominican Republic’s struggle for independence had begun many years before Duarte was born. His own parent’s were required to move to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico for a time from 1802 to 1809 while the country was under the imposition of Haitian rule that residents did not agree with. Haiti would again come to control the Dominican Republic in 1822 under governor Jean-Pierre Boyer. The move was sought to protect the newly independent nation from foreign powers abroad and was just another sign of the fighting between royalists and bourgeoisie.

While initially more or less tolerated, the imposition of Haitian ruled turned foul and resulted in a dictatorial government. Duarte recognized this and in 1839 initiated a secret society know as ‘La Trinitaria’ which promoted the independence movement in the Dominican Republic, granting freedom of political expression for all social classes. His liberal educational upbringing played a critical part in how he wanted his country to develop. He wanted a nation that was free of racial barriers in a time when creoles, whites and ethnic Dominicans were separated on several issues. Members of his society were also able to cooperate with their Haitian counterparts to overthrow Boyer in 1843 and usher in Charles Herard, a liberal minded figurehead and product of the enlightenment movement, as leader of the island. It would take another year for the members of the Trinitarias to gain control of Dominican Republic, and by this time several of the members had already been exiled for their activities.

On February 27, 1844, Duarte was finally welcomed home to Santo Domingo and declared president of the new nation. However, he would soon be exiled once more later that year when conservative elites gained power. This pattern of return and exile would mark the rest of his life. After a brief return to his homeland in 1864 to fight the War of Restoration, Duarte remained in Venezuela permanently until his death on July 15, 1876. While his contributions to the nation could have gone unnoticed, it was the doings of Ulises Heureaux, then President of the Dominican Republic, who declared him the founding father, and brought his remains back to the country for good.

Juan Pablo Duarte’s Birthday is celebrated on the Monday closes to January 26th every year.


2012 Petronas Malaysia Chinese New Year Advertisements Sheds Light on Generation Gap

Every Chinese New Year, Petronas (Petroliam Nasional Berhad), the Malaysian state owned petroleum and gas company, puts out an advertisement (TVC) for the celebration of Chinese New Year given the diversity found inside the nation. It is always a touching message about culture and family that is sure to provoke self-reflection of what one really values in life.

I was most moved, however, by the 2011 Petronas Chinese New Year ad as it struck me as not only a message about the importance of culture and family in Asia, but also shed light on how the prosperity of the Asian nations has led to a noticeable gap in the way the younger generations rank their priorities in life.

In the advertisement, all of the young adults are so busy working that to take time out of their day to spend more time with a loved one seems like a burden. While the same Generational labels (Generation X and Generation Y) have been shown to be pan-global, the corresponding characteristics are slightly different in Asia as compared to the United States. It is noticeable through the advertisement how the younger generations in Asia value modern comforts and money more than their elders, who value a slower lifestyle and quality face to face time with their children. In the United States we are witnessing the younger generations, particularly Gen Y, moving away from monetary compensation as their first priority in favor of a healthier work-life balance.

As the year of the dragon is ushered in promising to bring an entire year of good luck and fortune, these ads remind us that all of this would mean nothing with family.

Happy Chinese New Year, 恭喜發財!

If you are interested, here is a link to the 2012 videos, which are part of a 6 video series on Petronas’ Official YouTube account.

Holiday Spotlight: Chinese New Year – 农历新年

Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year (农历新年) and the year 4710, 4709 or 4679 depending on what you base the start of the calendar as. However, what is certain is that this New Year will be the year of the Dragon, a very lucky year in Chinese traditional mythology. By now many Chinese have traveled up to several days to get home for this very important holiday and are enjoying the next few days with family. We wish everyone a Happy New Year and good luck to come! Here is a brief description of the holiday we have used in the past as part of our series on “Top International Holidays that Affect Global Business”

Chinese New Year:

This holiday is considered one of the most important traditional Chinese holidays and is considered to officially mark the end of the winter season. Traditionally this holiday lasts for 15 straight days, though in modern times it will last for about a week during which time many people will take vacation and many businesses will be closed. It is a holiday known to bring together families and Chinese communities to celebrate together during an annual “reunion dinner” and other festivities such as the lighting of fireworks and lanterns.

Upcoming dates:

January 23, 2012

February 10, 2013

Historical Origin:

The origin of the Chinese New Year is based upon an ancient feud between a village in China and the mythical beast Nian, a lion-like monster.  Once a year the Nian would come to a village to attack and feed upon villagers.  Determined to protect their homes, the villagers came up with a plan for protection involving the use of firecrackers and the color red to decorate their houses and to scare the monster away.  The villagers were so successful with their plan that the Nian never returned to the village; hence Chinese New Year is also known as the anniversary of the “passing of the Nian.”


An interesting custom of this holiday is the thorough cleaning that a family will conduct at their family home.  This cleaning takes place before the official start of the holiday and is believed to be an important part of setting the stage for good luck and success in the new year by cleaning out any ill-fortune that might have taken place in the past year.  The cleaning is completed before the New Year and no cleaning is done at the start of the holiday celebration so that the new good luck of the year can take root in the home.  Other customs of this holiday are: the giving of money in red envelops to children, the dragon and lion dance and the Lantern Festival.

Food Eaten:

Buddha’s delight (vegetarian dish with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, tofu, etc.), fish, dumplings, mandarin oranges, noodles, turnip cakes and melon seeds.

Countries where it is celebrated:

China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Tibet, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand, Chinese communities across the world.

Keep an eye out for upcoming blogs where we will go into a little more depth about the other holidays that are a part of this list. If you found this post helpful and want a comprehensive list of international holidays, then you might be interested in our company’s calendar with over 1400 other international holidays, check it out here.

New Year’s Day January 1: Top Ten Holidays Affecting Global Business

This post is part of our blog series, “Top 10 International Holidays Affecting Global Business.” Each holiday affects global business differently, depending on what countries you are doing business in. On some of the holidays listed, large numbers of businesses may be closed or large numbers of employees may take time off from work to celebrate with their friends and families.

New Year’s:

New Year’s day in many countries and religions outside of the Western world is not on January 1st. Depending on the type of calendar – solar, lunisolar, or lunar – dates and times will vary from year to year in relation to the Gregorian calendar. Many Asian nations, such as China and Vietnam for example, celebrate their New Year a few weeks before spring between late January and late February depending on the lunar cycle. Nowruz, the Persian New Year, happens at the exact moment of the Spring Equinox with festivities lasting for several days. The Jewish calendar, which is lunisolar, and the Islamic calendar, a lunar calendar, also sport different dates for their official New Year’s.

While one could theoretically celebrate New Year’s every month of the Gregorian calendar, it is January 1st that holds the most weight in terms of impact on global business. In western countries and the Americas, New Year’s is characterized by the closing of almost all stores, schools, and offices, while also being a popular time for many to take a vacation. As a secular holiday, New Year’s manages to bring together families for food and drink, and to celebrate the possibility of a positive outcome for the year to come.

Upcoming date 2012:

Gregorian Calendar January 1st

Other New Year dates vary throughout the year

Historical Origin:

The history of New Year’s is perhaps one of the oldest celebrations in the world, dating back to Babylonian times some 4000 years ago to mark the first new moon after the vernal equinox. Unlike the currently Gregorian New Year’s, Babylonians celebrated the event for some eleven days! It was not until 153 BC when the Roman senate decided to set January 1st as the start date for the New Year. However, it took several more years for the Julian calendar to establish this as many Emperors continued to manipulate the calendar for their own benefit.


Throughout the world it is customary to make resolutions such as losing weight or quitting smoking. Parties starting on December 31 and celebrating the countdown until midnight are common to bring in good luck for the New Year with toasts and the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” in English speaking countries. Other traditions include bonfires consisting of leftover Christmas trees, baking cakes with hidden coins, fireworks, and parades and sporting events.


Black-eyed peas, ham, ring shaped foods, cabbage, rice, grapes, lentils and cakes.

Countries where it is celebrated:

All of Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other countries using the Gregorian calendar.

If you found this post helpful and want a comprehensive list of international holidays, then you might be interested in our company’s calendar with over 1400 other international holidays, check it out here.