A week doesn’t go by without a religious celebration taking place somewhere in the world. Business travellers should pay special attention to any upcoming events – both to experience a unique cultural event and to avoid their business plans being interrupted by the inevitable public holidays and family plans of their international counterparts.
Travelling to Greece in February?
People who are doing business in Greece this February should be aware that 23 February is a public holiday to celebrate Ash Monday, a feast typically observed in Orthodox countries. It is similar to Ash Wednesday which is common among Western Christian communities.
Ash Monday marks the beginning of Lent – a set period of seven weeks before Easter. For many Christians Lent is a period of fasting as a sign of moderation and spiritual discipline. During this time only certain types of food are allowed to be eaten, such as fish, vegetables, pasta or salad. Consumption of dairy products, eggs and meat are not permitted.
Clean Monday is another common term for Ash Monday and derived from practical customs. During the week starting on Monday people clean their house and go to confession leaving behind any sinful habits. The town of Galaxidi, a small northern town north of Athens, has a special tradition on Ash Monday. People paint their faces and throw coloured flour at each other. The celebration is so intense that authorities have to cover buildings to protect them from tonnes of starch flying through the air.
Plan your Trip
For professionals doing business abroad it is particularly important to have more in-depth knowledge of world religious celebrations and customs similar to Ash Monday.
Public holidays bring business to a stop and potentially coincide with a period of people taking leave. Knowing when is a good time to get business done and schedule meetings avoids delays. Upcoming public holidays and related customs can be the subject of a good icebreaker for conversations with your business partner. Your international counterparts will appreciate you showing interest and knowledge of their culture. This knowledge will break the ice and help significantly to create a good working relationship. Public holidays in conjunction with religious celebrations are, after all, a display of cultural values.
Behaviour and communication in professional as well as social environments is shaped by cultural norms and values. Cross cultural training helps to prepare you to navigate the minefield of international customs, traditions and values.
Here is a useful link to religious festivals across the world – we hope you find it useful and enjoy these unique opportunities to experience a culture close up.