Get us in your inbox


World on the street

Cultural festivals let you globe-trot without leaving the city. Here's how to celebrate like a native and avoid getting kicked out for your rude American ways.


Taste of Polonia (Sept 3–6)
Greeting Czesc (“täch”)
Authentic eat Try the zapiekanki ($5). These halved baguettes get topped with mushrooms, cheese, ketchup and often ham. “It’s like a Polish pizza,” says Izabela Kaczor, Taste of Polonia’s event coordinator.

Taste of Polonia (Sept 3–6)
Greeting Czesc (“täch”)
Authentic eat Try the zapiekanki ($5). These halved baguettes get topped with mushrooms, cheese, ketchup and often ham. “It’s like a Polish pizza,” says Izabela Kaczor, Taste of Polonia’s event coordinator.
Traditional dance “Every city in Poland has its own dance,” says Kaczor. “The Krakowiak Dance is the most popular.” This traditional folk dance involves couples in brightly colored costumes skipping in a large circle. See folk dances in action at the fest on September 5 at 3pm.
Just make sure you don’t... Chew gum while talking to someone. It’s offensive in Poland. “It’s definitely rude to me,” Kaczor says.

Ginza Holiday Festival (Aug 13–15)
Greeting Domo (“domo”)
Authentic eat Chill out with a kintoki ($3). This dessert features shaved ice with sweet bean topping. Pat Harada, publicity co-chair at the Ginza Holiday Festival, says the flavor you’re drooling over comes from beans mixed with sweetened condensed milk.
Traditional dance Classic Japanese dances like the Izumozaki Okesa add some excitement to the calm Buddhist-temple setting. Harada says the seven or eight kimono-clad dancers perform “not formal Japanese dancing, but informal folk dancing.” Izumozaki Okesa’s origins go back to an eponymous song sailors trolled while traveling across the Sea of Japan before trade was opened to the West. See dance performances various times throughout the weekend.
Just make sure you don’t… Get rowdy in the drink line. This celebration is calmer than your run-of-the-mill street festivals.

Gaelic Park Irish Fest (May 28–31)
Greeting Conas ata tu (“kün-iss tä tü”)
Authentic eat According to John Devitt, the vice president of Gaelic Park, everyone loves the porter cake ($2 a slice). “It’s made with Guinness,” Devitt says. “ID is required.” He’s not kidding.
Traditional dance Irish dancers perform a ceili dance called Walls of Limerick at 7:30pm on May 29 and May 30. “It [looks] like a charge on the walls in battle and a charge back,” explains Devitt.
Just make sure you don’t… When offered a cup of tea, it’s rude to accept it on the first offer. You’ll want to politely say, “No, ma’am, I wouldn’t think of putting you out.” When offered it a second time, it’s considered impolite if you don’t accept it.

Chicago Arabesque (Jun 24–26)
Greeting Marhaba (“MÄR-häh-bäh”)
Authentic eat The Arab nations cook up a version of baklava that’s different from the traditional Greek kind. “Baqlaweh is made with different nuts like walnuts, pistachios or almonds depending on the region,” says Roxane Assaf, who works with the Chicago Arabesque and the City of Chicago Advisory Council on Arab Affairs. “It also comes in a variety of shapes other than the usual square or triangle.” Wash it down with qahweh Arabiya (about $2), a thick, sweetened, spiced coffee.
Traditional dance The debkeh, which means “stamping of the feet” in Arabic, is a traditional line dance where hoofers join hands and strut their stuff. Check out the “Debkeh-Off” at 2pm on June 26.
Just make sure you don’t… Give a stranger an imposing bear hug. Arab people cautiously feel out the appropriate way to greet someone. Simply shaking hands might be preferable for some.

Turkish Festival (May 23–26)
Greeting Naber (“NÄH-behr”)
Authentic eat Sink your teeth into a lahmacun ($5). This thin-crust pizza is topped with minced meat, mixed with herbs and spices. It’s folded up and eaten like a wrap.
Traditional dance The Whirling Dervishes take to the stage to perform a traditional spiritual number. Don’t try it at home; each move is symbolic. “The hands of the dervishes are something to pay attention to in this ritual,” says Turkish Festival sponsorship committee co-chair Burcu Agar. “The right palm faces upwards toward Heaven, and their left hand points at the earth.” Check them out each day of the fest.
Just make sure you don’t… Unlike in Ireland, when offered something to eat or drink, accept it. Even if you’re full, it’s polite to take at least a small portion.

Complete festival listings: May | June | July | August | September | October

Festival cover bands | Fair play | Festival food pyramid | Sunning spots | What to wear to this year’s festivals | Greasy festival food | Summer festival bathroom guide | Ethnic street festivals | Festival survival pack | Local craft beer at festivals | Summer festival organizers

    You may also like

      The best things in life are free.

      Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

      Loading animation
      Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

      🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

      Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!