largest category of nonverbal communication would be gestures. Gestures
can be the movement of any part of the body such as the hands or head.
A simple movement you may consider normal could be offensive to someone
from another culture. When speaking to others from another culture use
as little gestures as possible until you figure out what gestures are
good and which ones are bad. This is the easiest way to keep yourself
out of trouble.
is a good exercise below. Think about what you would interpret these
hand signs as for both your country and others. For every sign you get
correct allocate yourself one point. This test was created by an
internatioal traveler and member of the Western Toastmasters, an
internatioal program/club designed to help people around the world
become a better public speaker around the world. Here is there website:
Europe and North America:
region, Russia, Brazil, Turkey: An insult Tunisia, France,
Belgium: Zero; worthless Japan:
Western Countries: One;
Excuse me!; As God is my witness; No! (to children)
Britain, Australia, New Zealand,
Malta: Up yours! USA:
Two Germany: Victory France:
Europe: Three Catholic Countries:
Europe: Two Britain,
Australia, New Zealand: One USA: Waiter!;
Please come here Japan: An
Number 5 Mostly Everywhere:
Greece and Turkey: Go to hell!
Woman South America: Thin France: You
can't fool me!
wife is being unfaithful Malta and Italy:
Protection against the Evil Eye (when pointed) South America: Protection
against bad luck (when rotated)
USA: Texas University Logo, Texas Longhorn Football Team
Greece: Go to Hell! The West:
Rome: Up yours! USA:
Sit on this! Screw you!
Europe: One Australia:
Sit on this! (upward jerk) Mostly Everywhere:
Hitchhike; Good; OK Greece:
Up yours! (thrust forward) Japan:
Hawaii: 'Hang loose' Holland: Do
you want a drink?
USA: I love you
The West: Ten; I
Up Yours -- twice! Widespread:
I'm telling the truth
expressions can be tricky sometimes. However there are 6 expressions
that are considered universal and are easily determined by a majortiy
of cultures (most of the
time). These expressions are happiness,
anger, fear, sadness, disgust and
minor exception would be that most Japanese labeled the fear facial
expressions as suprise.
in some countries the same facial expressions can be used differently.
In Italy when speaking to someone they can seem extremely angry at
times and seem to speak unnaturally loud or even yell at times to get
their point accross. However this is their normal friendly way of
speaking, here in the United States we prefer smiling faces and overly
friendly personalities. We appreciate it, even if they don't mean it.
The Itallians are uncomfortable around too much smiling, especially
when they realize you don't actually feel happy or have a legitimate
reason for smiling that much.
may not seem like an issue, but in some countries it can lead to
disputes if you don't try to understand their point of view. For
example the French prefer to use extremely wide hand gestures and
prefer lots of touching and standing extremely close to whoever they
are talking to. In the United States most people prefer to stand at
least arms length away when talking and don't use as much hand
gestures. If you are having trouble trying to understand if touching is
good or bad go to a public place in the area and observe conversations
of the locals. This will give you a good idea of normal space given of
people from that culture. Sometimes touching, or even not touching can
hello and goodbye is very important it can leave a lasting impression.
Just as saying hello or goodbye in the wrong way can leave a bad
lasting impression. Kissing is a huge cultural barrier sometimes. For
example Italians prefer to kiss someone goodbye than a handshake by
pecking them on both cheeks. Kissing someone in the United States
however can be extremely innaproprioate sometimes. In the United States
handshakes are preferred over kissing. However in Japan bowing is best.
When meeting someone both persons are expected to bow with the person
with the highest status bowing the least and the lowest social status
bowing the most. This is determined at the first meeting and is
expected. Refusing to bow is taken as a personal insult, just as not
kissing someone goodbye in Italy. Again paying close attention to the
locals in the area can give you a good idea on what is the best way to
greet or leave someone.