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Food for Thought

During my university years, I worked as a Tour Director escorting primarily American tourists around the Maritime provinces. The first thing I learned about slight differences in food and beverage and culture was about tea. In the Maritimes, if you order tea, you will receive a hot beverage, with milk and sugar on the side. In England, this hot beverage may also be served with a slice of lemon. In the southern United States, however, if you order tea, you will receive a cold beverage which is known as “iced tea” to most Canadians.

I also experienced what I thought to be an odd occurrence at my first conference in Dallas, Texas. I was shocked to see that there was pop (aka soda) offered at breakfast. After settling in at my table, I waited for a few moments for my morning cup of coffee to be offered by the server. However, I quickly realized there were no coffee cups on the tables! Upon requesting a cup of coffee, I continued to wonder why this hadn’t been an automatic offering at breakfast, like it was in Canada. Perplexed by this situation, I proceeded to discuss the matter with my fellow event planners at the table. This is when I learned that many southern Americans drink soda for breakfast for their caffeine intake, in lieu of coffee, as hot beverages are not desired in the warmer climate. All of a sudden everything made sense, including the tea debate I had been stumped by for years!

As a supplier, these experiences have made me more in tune with my clients, the destinations they are traveling from and their cultural norms. For example, for European clients meals play a more important role in business than in some parts of the world. It is culturally acceptable to schedule a longer lunch, which includes wine, so that business negotiations and networking can take place. Also, mealtimes can be scheduled much later than in Canada or the United States. While it may not be the norm in Canada to have a leisurely lunch or to serve dinner at 9 or 10 p.m., one should always consider the majority of attendees at an event, as well as their cultural norms, and plan accordingly.

So, the next time someone challenges you on the “tomato”/“tomahto” debate, stop and think for a moment…why can’t both options be correct?