Cultural festivals can be a great way to experience a small taste of culture without investing in costly plane tickets. However, there are a few downsides of cultural festivals that you should be aware of before planning your next adventure. Here are some of the pros and cons of attending a cultural festival and a few tips to help you get the most out of your experience.
The Benefits of Attending a Cultural Festival
Benefit #1: It’s cheap or free.
Cultural festivals are a great way to immerse yourself in a new cultural without needing to invest in a plane ticket, time off, visas, and pre-trip doctors appointments. You can most likely find one within an hour radius of your home. It is usually free to get in so the only costs you incur are possibly parking and any items you choose to purchase while at the festival.
Benefit #2: You get cultural immersion for a few hours.
If you want to learn about another culture but aren’t sure where to start, a cultural festival can be a great springboard for your education. You will see things that spark your curiosity, make you wonder, and amaze you all at once. Jot those experiences down and suddenly you have all sorts of interesting topics to learn about.
Benefit #3: An Assortment of Authentic Foods
Instead of having to scour the internet for an authentic restaurant, at a cultural festival you have at least a dozen authentic “restaurants” at your fingertips. Cultural festivals are a great time to check out and try authentic cuisine without the pressure of finding the perfect place for your adventure.
Benefit #4: It’s a Great Family Adventure.
At a cultural festival, there is something for everyone. If your little ones aren’t ready for travel or your not-so-little ones aren’t all that interested, a cultural festival gives everyone a peek into another lifestyle without pushing them out of their comfort zone. Since there is so much going on at once, you can easily find something of interest for everyone.
The Cons of Attending a Cultural Festival
Unfortunately, going to a cultural festival isn’t all roses and butterflies. There are definitely some downsides to keep in mind. The good news is, for each con there are a few helpful tips to counteract it and help you have the best possible experience at your cultural festival.
Con #1: Crowds
Crowds can be overwhelming for anyone, no matter how old you are. Sometimes if you show up right at the beginning or near the end of an event you can beat the crowds a little bit. Warning: If you have a child who struggles with sensory overload, a cultural festival may not be the best choice for you.
Tip #1: Have a plan to stick together.
Talk with your family ahead of time to decide who will stay with who and what the boundaries are. (i.e. you must hold my hand at all times.) Have a plan in case you get separated and make sure someone in each group has a phone or another way to communicate so that you can easily regroup.
Tip #2: Know your route.
Look up several options for parking ahead of time so that you aren’t driving around aimlessly and know how to get to your festival from the parking spot.
Tip #3: Communicate your Expectations
Talk with your family ahead of time about what each person would like to see, hear, or try. That way instead of just wandering aimlessly through the crowds you can treat it more like a scavenger hunt, checking items off the items you set out to find. If there are specific musical groups or dances you’d like to see, try to check the schedule ahead of time so that you know when they will be performing.
Tip #4: Be flexible.
Life with kids never goes as planned. Be willing to abandon your agenda or split up in groups so that you can meet your children’s needs while still enjoying the festival.
Con #2: Commercialism
Although it is great to see all the local foods, goods, and toys of another culture at once, you can also easily get sucked into thinking that is what it’s all about- especially with little kids.
Tip #1: Set a Budget
Before heading to the festival, choose an amount you are willing to spend at the festival. Take that amount out in cash, because most vendors won’t be able to take cards. If your kids are old enough, set an amount for each person. Give them their money so that they can choose what they’d like to purchase. When you’ve spent all your money, it is time to explore the other aspects of the festival instead.
Tip #2: Bring Snacks and Water
Obviously if you are at a cultural festival, you probably want to try the cuisine. However, that doesn’t mean go hungry without a drop of water on hand. Make sure everyone is well fed and well rested before you leave. Bring some small snacks along to avoid meltdowns. Since festivals are usually outside in the sun, keep water handy so that everyone is hydrated. It is much easier to choose between a plethora of options when you aren’t about ready to pass out from hunger or thirst.
Con #3: Out of Context.
If you were traveling abroad and saw something you didn’t understand, you could probably ask a nearby local, tour guide, or fellow tourist to explain. At a cultural festival, there will be plenty of people around you to ask but they may not be able to hear your question. Since cultural festivals are valuable pieces of another culture displayed out of context, it can feel confusing or overwhelming to those just learning.
Tip #1 : Bring a notebook and a camera.
Jot down the questions you have and take pictures of curious items you find. Once you get home, look up information to help you learn more.
Tip #2: Bring a friend.
If you have a friend who knows more about this new culture, ask him or her to come along as your guide. Your guide will be able to help you understand confusing elements of the cultural festival and may help you feel less overwhelmed because he or she can help you decide what foods to try and what items to look for.
Overall, attending a cultural festival is a great way to experience a taste of culture without needing to travel abroad. If you come prepared, it can be a wonderful family adventure that will spark interest in other cultures and pave the way toward the understanding of other people groups. For families embracing diversity, or anyone participating in the diversity challenge, cultural festivals are definitely something you should add into your weekend plans as often as possible. Plus now that you know all the pros and cons of attending a cultural festival, your adventure is sure to be a success. Let us know how it goes in the comments below!