St. Valentine’s Day – More than dates and roses

St.Valentine’s Day – more than dates and roses

Michael R. Czinkota

For centuries St. Valentine has been the patron of love and lovers, providing individuals with the nudge to move a relationship forward. International shipments of red roses have enriched the economies of Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya by hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the time to revisit Valentine’s Day as to its meaning and make plans to restructure its impact.

Valentine’s Day has already undergone significant expansion. Its celebration has grown from a small parish to half of the globe. It has become, in some of the wealthier countries, an important gift giving occasion. Gifts have become differentiated by gender. Men consistently give more than women, perhaps because they wish for a foundation, while many women see decoration. The typical gifts are jewelry, roses or dinner. As reported by the National Retail Federation of America, more than $ 810 million worth of Valentine’s Day gifts are given to pets.

The timing of Valentine’s Day has expanded as well. In Korea and Japan, romantic gifts are given on March 14, one month later than in the USA. The product pallet has become more diverse: for example in Denmark, instead of roses, one exchanges pressed white flowers. In the Philippines, on February 14 small events are increasingly supplanted by large ceremonies and mass weddings. Italians, instead of smelling the roses, listen to the reading of poetry and eat chocolate hazelnut kisses also known as baci. In South Africa the name of a beloved one is written on one’s shirt sleeves.

Some governments consider the Day as unreligious and ban its celebration. By contrast, increasingly, on Valentine’s Day one does not just recognize the one you love, but also family and friends. The Pope in Rome has been known to carry flowers with him on that special day.

In sum, Valentine’s Day has taken on a wider mission, diversified its outreach, introduced more flexibility in terms of timing, product, message, and interaction with more people. Most importantly, it has propagated quite successfully the message of interaction, proximity, hugs and love.

As next step should encourage this expansion and integrate it more with our lives as business people, policy makers or consumers. Here are some suggestions how Valentine’s Day as a widening construct can serve to incorporate present day realities and future days outlook. To nudge things along, recommendations are included  for appropriate commemorative gifts.  

For President Trump: A cake with many candles but little sugar for providing many occasions of hope, change and new perspectives.

For Kim Jong-un of North Korea : a candle signifying the love of your people and in appreciation  for not blowing up  nuclear devices;

For the U.S. Congress: A “like” card for constituents to send to their own representative; to be accompanied by a ‘’you can do better’’ card for the rest of the institution;

For the global trade community: A “tough love” card which allocates specific responsibilities for rules and tasks to be changed, accompanied by jovial if not hearty messages indicating that “we understand”;

For Prime Minister May: some non-tear tissues – to dry the eyes – we won’t  break away;

For people both domestic and foreign who were struck by natural disasters or poverty: a red envelope with a check inside;

For tax payers:  no plastic but a paper bag; their reductions are more than just crumbs;

For corporations:  a colorful map showing new investment opportunities with large benefits;

To the Twitter company: some tightly packed characters showing concern;

For media: some loosely sourced but highly emotional news stories showing respect;

To the world at large: the form of messages and hugs represent how different cultures take different approaches to love; to get there, a relationship has to come first; joint efforts will help.

To my own small world: humongous love to wife Ilona and daughter Margaret; your gift; anything you want.

TO ALL:   Happy St.Valentine’s Day!

*Michael R. Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent , U.K. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th edition, CENGAGE)

Language and Communication in International Marketing

Knowing the language of a society can become the key to understanding its culture. Language is not merely a collection of words or terms. Language expresses the thinking pattern of a culture—and to some extent even forms the thinking itself. Linguists have found that cultures with more primitive languages or a limited range of expression are more likely to be limited in their thought patterns. Some languages cannot accommodate modern technological or business concepts, forcing the cultural elite to work in a different language.

The French are particularly sensitive about their language as an embodiment of their culture and seek to protect it from outside influence. The French government has proposed legal action to limit further incursions by other languages, especially by English. For example, le airbag is called coussin gonflable de protection and fast food is restauration rapide. France persuaded the European community that 40 percent of TV programming should be produced domestically. Cinema tickets in France are taxed and the funds used to support the French film industry as protection against the U.S. film industry, which has come to dominate the European film market.

Some countries have more than one official language. When Disney released its first animated film produced in India, it was available in three languages-Hindi, Tamil, and Tel-ugu. In fact, India has 19 official languages, although the most commonly spoken language is Hindi. South Africa has 11 official languages. A very few countries, such as the United States, do not designate an official language. African countries with diverse tribal languages often adopt a colonial European language as their official language. However, the use of this official language may be restricted to elites. Similarly, Spanish is one of the official languages of Bolivia, but 2 native Indian languages are also official. Certain languages are associated with certain regions of the world, but key markets in these regions may speak a different language. For example, Arabic is associated with the Middle East, but Persian (Farsi) is spoken in Iran, and Turkish in Turkey. Spanish is associated with Latin America, but Portuguese is spoken in Brazil.

Forms of Address

The English language has one form of address: All persons are addressed with the pronoun you. This is not the case in many other languages. The Germanic, Romance, and Slavic languages always have two forms of address, the personal and the formal. Japanese has three forms. A Japanese person will use a different form of address with a superior, a colleague, or a subordinate, and there are different forms for male and female in many expressions. These differences in language represent different ways of interacting. English, particularly as it is spoken in the United States, is much less formal than Japanese. Americans often address their bosses and customers by their first names. In Japan this practice could be considered rude. Consequently, knowing the Japanese language gives a foreigner a better understanding of cultural mores regarding social status and authority.