Understanding cultural differences is key for global brands
What do you imagine when you think of the Valentine’s Day traditions of certain countries around the globe? Let’s say you spin a globe and stop it on random country – would you know how that country celebrates the patron saint of love? Or would you guess that like us in the UK, the tradition of sending cryptic cards, flowers and chocolates to those you admire or love, are the main customs?
Now, you might wonder why it matters, how other countries celebrate Valentine’s Day differently to us. The importance lies in the information gap you have of the culture of an overseas market your organisation is looking to enter.
The importance of utilising native speakers in your localisation strategy
If a celebration as familiar as Valentine’s Day can be marked so differently in countries around the world, there will inevitably be other cultural nuances to the market your company wishes to move into that you simply aren’t aware of.
That’s where the benefit of experienced, in-country and skilful native-speaking translators come in. As native speakers with the right know-how, our translators understand how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan for instance, or the most popular channels consumers use to shop in over in Germany, among much more invaluable and detailed market knowledge.
Japan – turning Western traditions on their head
Let’s kick things off with the Land of the Rising Sun. In Japan, Western Valentine’s Day norms are turned upside down. In a twist on normalised gender roles, in Japan, women are the ones that bestow presents in the form of chocolates to their sweethearts.
There’s a complex set of guidelines that are followed: husbands, boyfriends and romantic interests are given high-quality chocolates as a mark of their status. These are known as honmei-choco, which translates to ‘true feeling chocolate.’ These are hand delivered to their intended recipients, whereas in contrast, platonic acquaintances and colleagues are given giri-choco, meaning ‘obligation chocolates’, somewhat taking the charm out of the gesture!
Our closest neighbours in France are well known for their romantic nature. In the village of St Valentine, there are three whole days dedicated to the patron Saint of Love, where the festivities stretch from the 12-14th of February.
To mark the celebration, revellers line the streets with red roses, and the besotted often propose in the village’s lover’s garden. There’s even a tree featured in the garden, which is adorned with declarations of love – fittingly it’s known as the ‘Tree of Vows’.
In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day weddings are a communal event. As an annual event, Valentine’s Day couples from around the Philippines are married at the same time, often in public places. Sometimes hundreds and even as many as thousands of couples are wed on Valentine’s Day.
The reason for this mass exchange of marriage vows is that weddings are sponsored by the government. They offer the wedding services as a public service to enable less privileged couples the chance to say their marriage vows, a perfect celebration of the romantic festival.
In South Africa, many locals celebrate the festival of love with chocolates, flowers and romantic dinners. So far so normal.
But, in an unusual turn, the people of South Africa also celebrate in a slightly quirkier manner, taking inspiration from the original Roman festival of love, Lupercalia.
Historians believe Lupercalia to be the roots of Valentine’s Day as we know it today. Young women in South Africa celebrate by pinning the name of their loved one on their sleeve – literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves!
Thankfully, this celebration is a modernised version of the original Lupercalia, minus some of the more unpalatable practices of Roman times, which used to include men sacrificing goats and parading through the streets wearing their skins.
Finland and Estonia – solace for singletons
In Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day is a much more inclusive festival. Ystävän Päivä (Finnish) and sõbrapäev (Estonian) is a more friendship than a love-oriented festival. On February 14th, Finns and Estonians celebrate the value of friendship. This comes through the exchanging of cards and presents which feature the message ‘Happy Friends Day’.
This makes a change from the couple-centric approach of most Western Valentine’s Day celebrations.
Our translators will help you navigate cultural differences
Our translators are always native speakers who understand the nuances of the language or dialect they are translating into. They are also local to the market you are operating in, so they understand how the language is evolving and the cultural norms of the society they’re writing for.
So, if you are looking to enter new markets, or overhaul your approach to localisation, fill in our short form for a personalised quote and one of our experienced project managers will get back to you asap to discuss your project requirements.