Ideas for Multicultural Day

Family cooking traditional meal together
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A multicultural day is an opportunity to enhance cultural awareness and to remind people of the similarities and differences among cultures. We all eat, for example, but the way we get the food from the plate to our mouths varies from continent to continent. In North America, people use a knife and fork; Asians use chopsticks, and Africans use their right hands. Besides different food traditions, expand your multicultural day to include other activities.

1 Hello

Make name tags with “hello” in different languages and tell the participant to use the word. So a reply to “bonjour” might be “ni hao” or “hola." It is a good way for people to focus on the similarities of culture: We all say “hello” in some way, and a smile is universal. Have a contest to see who learned to say “hello” in the most languages at the end of the day.

2 World Meal

Cook up rice and beans and give everyone a cup full of the mixture for their meal of the day. Stress that this nourishment is all that many people in the world have to eat. Also, remind everyone that poor people are found in every country in the world. Confronting how little food some people have may be a challenging experience for some participants.

3 Dance

Ask different groups taking part in the multicultural day to do a dance performance specific to their country. Remember to avoid terms like “African dance” as the belly dance of Morocco is very different from the Ibo dances. Then have a dance that everyone can join. The “friendship dance” of the Native Americans is a good choice for this activity. Invite local singers to perform for this dance or download the music if there aren’t any drummers available in your area.

4 Cross-Cultural IQ Test

Test participants' knowledge of how much they know about other cultures. Ask questions such as how many times a day Muslims hear the “call to prayer” from the mosque. Check to see how many people know how to hand someone a business card in China. See how many people know the name of the president of Brazil or what season it is in New Zealand.

5 Houses

Set up a display of traditional housing from around the world and link it to how people worked with the materials they had. Include the mud-brick and straw houses of West Africa, along with the teepees of the plains Native Americans, the igloos of the Inuit and the brick cottages of France.

Jody Hanson began writing professionally in 1992 to help finance her second around-the-world trip. In addition to her academic books, she has written for "International Living," the "Sydney Courier" and the "Australian Woman's Forum." Hanson holds a Ph.D. in adult education from Greenwich University.