To begin the presentation, turn on a well-known song performed by your countrymen. It will help to attract your audiences' attention and impress people from the very beginning. So, for example, I always turn on for guests of my intercultural evenings songs of modern Ukrainian musicians known to the European public: ONUKA, DakhaBrakha, The Hardkiss, Eurovision winners 2004 and 2016 Ruslana and Jamala. In this way I emphasize that Ukrainian music can be competitive in the world market and interesting to foreigners.
Once I was invited to an intercultural evening of the Georgians and they began their presentation by performing an acapella folk song «Suliko». It was very atmospheric and beautiful. But I do not know how to sing, that’s why I usually just turn on Ukrainian folk songs on YouTube.
I also witnessed how the Italians performed the Italian national anthem at the beginning of their presentation. It was also unusual and helped them to attract the attention of their guests, because everyone stood up out of respect for the national symbol.
To lighten the mood and impress my guests, I start with some interesting facts about my country. For example, I say that Ukraine is written without the, that there is the deepest subway station in the world, that the world famous song «Carol of the Bells» was written on the basis of Ukrainian folk song «Shchedryk», that Ukraine is the only country in the world abandoned nuclear weapons on its own initiative etc. Thanks to interesting facts, you can surprise the audience and do without long boring lectures about culture and history.
One way to create an interesting presentation about any country is to make a quiz on the Kahoot! site. It will help you to engage all those present and add the spirit of competition. But keep in mind that this method requires preparation and equipment (Wi-Fi, projector, laptop, speakers). Participants who want to take your test must also have gadgets (smartphone, tablet, laptop). How to create a presentation in Kahoot! you can find in this tutorial: http://marinakurvits.com/kahoot/. If you can’t work with Kahoot!, not the worst quiz can be created with a regular powerpoint.
I also built my quiz about Ukraine in Kahoot! on the basis of interesting facts so that participants could learn something new about my country and didn’t get bored of trivial questions. And the funnier this quiz made, the better. You should remember that most of your guests unlikely to have a deep knowledge of history and culture of your country and it is unlikely that there is a person who will accurately name its total area. When you are preparing a presentation, imagine yourself a foreigner and just think what you would like to find out during an intercultural evening. And, of course, reward the winners (for example, give them sweets or souvenirs from your country).
I held workshops on creating traditional rag doll «Motanka» twice. To do this, I prepare all necessary materials (fabric, scissors, thread) and choose the easiest sample that could be made by all those present. My guests are usually very interested because I accompany each workshop with story about the meaning of this handmade talisman. Everyone can make his/her own personal Ukrainian rag doll, which he/she can take home and it takes 20 minutes. Now when I meet people who attended my workshops, they tell me that they keep their Motankas and tell about Ukraine to their friends. For me this is the best outcome of an intercultural evening that can be.
Think about it, maybe in your culture there are also traditional handmade things and you can teach others how to make them.
I use video to show the beauty of my country to foreigners. Fortunately, I can find lots of interesting videos on YouTube with Ukraine's most attractive landscapes.
At different intercultural events organizers showed us videos about history of different countries, funny videos about language, clips about prominent personalities. When foreigners have more time and motivation to watch videos about your country than at intercultural evening? The most important: don't go overboard with showing videos and don’t turn your presentation into a presentation of capabilities of YouTube. Video is interesting, but it is not the only one and not the most original way to present your country.
If you wish, you can organize a separate movie night for foreigners and show them a film which represents traditions and customs of your nation (for example, I like a film by director Serhii Paradzhanov «Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors», based on the classic book by Ukrainian writer Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky).
One tip: watch videos before showing them to others to avoid any inconvenience.
At Ukrainian intercultural evenings I just demonstrate videos about folk dances, but I consider them as very important element of my culture.
Once I was very impressed by Romanians who performed amazing dances at their intercultural evening. It looked very professional and authentic.
As for me, it is good when you can not only show the dance, but also teach others during your presentation. Thanks to intercultural evenings, I know how to dance polonaise, sirtaki, kolo. Folk dances are usually not complicated, that’s why they are folk dances, so it is enough to show basic moves and invite everyone to dance together. Next time, I also plan to teach foreigners to dance Ukrainian «Arkan».
Traditional costumes are not only beautiful, they can tell a lot about history and life of country. If you have the opportunity, put on a national costume or at least one element of it for your presentation. For example, I only have Vyshyvanka, which doesn’t take up a lot of space in my suitcase, and I always take it with me to different projects.
Next time, I also plan to print photos of Ukrainian traditional costumes and hang them around the room where the presentation will take place. In addition, I found a short and stylish video about the history of Ukrainian costume.
What games kids play in your country? For example, during presentation of the Portuguese, I learned how to play cabra-cega and I learned from the Italians that «Sedie musicali» is a popular game in their country. Playing traditional games during intercultural evenings is fun, it will ease the atmosphere. Once I taught foreigners how to play Ukrainian game «Palytsya», now it is their favorite icebreaker.
Tell foreigners about interesting traditional rituals which are specific to your country. For example, about the celebration of marriage or New Year's celebrations etc. Preferably, show it. For example, once together with foreigners we tried to play engagement ceremony, like people still do in Western Ukrainian villages.
The most favorite part of any intercultural evening for all those present is the tasting of traditional dishes. First and second course dishes, sweets, snacks, traditional drinks can be offered to guests, as long as everything is hygienic and safe for health. Prepare dishes and napkins. If you plan to serve hot meals - think how to keep them hot. If you before coming to a new country know that you will need to organize an intercultural evening, bring authentic ingredients with you (those that can be transported across borders and that will not be spoiled).