Whether it's an obstacle course, scavenger hunt, or cooking class, the best teambuilding activities bring co-workers or meeting attendees together through challenge and fun. In an increasingly global society, however, it's no longer enough for teambuilding activities to connect meeting attendees to the people who sit on the other side of the office -- the most effective teambuilding activities will be those that connect them to customers and colleagues on the other side of the world. With that in mind, many meeting venues and destinations are offering cultural teambuilding activities that build both cultural literacy and camaraderie. Here are five great examples.
Polynesian Canoe Building
Thousands of years ago, ancient Polynesians built special sailing canoes called "outriggers" that they used to explore the Pacific Ocean and populate its various islands, including the Hawaiian islands, where the Hilton Hawaiian Village
offers a Polynesian canoe teambuilding activity for groups that are interested in exploring one of the South Pacific's oldest arts. Using modern materials like plastic and cardboard, groups are charged with building their own canoe from scratch, then testing it in the gorgeous waters of the hotel's Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon.
Nearly 600 years ago, the Ikenobo family of Kyoto, Japan, originated the Japanese art of flower arranging, known as Ikebana. Inspired by the Buddhist ritual of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead, it has been passed down from teacher to student through the generations and is now a delicate practice governed by strict rules dictating what materials may be combined -- living branches, leaves, grasses, and blossoms -- and how. At its New York outpost, The Kitano New York
, Japanese hotelier The Kitano Group uses Ikebana floral arrangements in its lobby and in its restaurant. Noritaka Noda, president of the New York City chapter of the Kenobo Ikebana Society, changes the flowers on a weekly basis with his students. Meeting groups can book a session with him to learn the art of Ikebana in one of the hotel's traditional ceremonial rooms or in its authentic Japanese hospitality suite, the Tatami Suite.
If you would rather connect with Japanese culture in Japan than in New York, the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau
can hook your group up with a Taiko drumming class for up to 100 people, during which participants will learn about the modern art of Japanese drum ensembles. Attendees are divided into teams, each of which is equipped with a series of different sized Japanese "taiko" drums that create a variety of pitches. Taiko drumming instructors teach the group how to strike the drums in sync, producing a rhythmic sound together. Although Japanese drum ensembles are a relatively new occurrence, dating back to the 1950s, taiko drums themselves have been popular in Japan since the medieval period, when they were used on the battlefield to scare away enemies and communicate with soldiers.
In Bali, society is governed by "banjars" -- small, autonomous local governments that serve the collective needs of their communal villages in the style of a town council. At The Ritz-Carlton, Bali
, a "Meet the Banjar" meeting package is available to introduce groups to the cultural traditions that stem from this Balinese institution. The package includes a "Fruit Market Break" highlighting fresh Balinese produce; a "Balinese Sweet Break" featuring traditional refreshments made of three main Balinese ingredients: rice flour, coconut, and palm sugar; and a "Warung Lunch" consisting of street foods served from traditional food carts. The highlight, however, is the "Indian Ocean Dinner." Taking place at dusk, guests turn in their footwear to the resort's shoe concierge and enjoy a celebration amid local decorations, entertainment, and cuisine. Inspired by a Balinese fishing village, highlights include bonfires and tiki torches, fresh seafood, tables sculpted from sand, and traditional dance and music performances.
Costa Rica is synonymous with coffee, and one of the best places to learn about Costa Rica's coffee culture is the Costa Rica Marriott San Jose
, a colonial hacienda-style property that's located on a 30-acre coffee plantation. The hotel's onsite coffeehouse, Casa del Café, has an onsite coffee curator who demonstrates how to harvest the best coffee at home and hosts latte design classes where participants can learn to design everything from monkeys to flowers in their latte foam. Additionally, the hotel's "Café Chorreado" program teaches guests to make coffee in the traditional Costa Rican way: using a traditional Costa Rican "chorreador" - a coffee-making device consisting of a wooden stand and a cloth filter full of coffee grounds through which hot water seeps, dripping "brewed" coffee into one's cup.