Body language is a form of communication using bodily gestures instead of words. It can send a message to anyone in a non-verbal way. Eyes, head, hands, feet, whole body – they convey thoughts, feelings, and attitudes in a subtle way.
Human instincts teach us how to use our body to send messages to other people. However, not all of us understand these gestures the same way with other people living in different cultures. For instance, a gesture that signal for “yes” to our culture might be mean “no” for others; a gesture that saying “come here” might be interchanged into saying “goodbye”.
To give us some insight about the culture and significance of body languages, let’s take a look at these. Here’s a list of interesting gestures of several cultures around the world:
- A direct eye to eye contact in the social gatherings and business transactions is very important.
- In a form of greetings, women briefly hug other women while men kiss a woman’s cheek.
- A firm handshake with an eye to eye contact is the proper greeting in the US.
- Men greet with a handshake while women with a slight nod.
- Eating while walking in the street is considered bad manner.
- Men rise if a woman enters the room.
- In a bar, when you turn your glass upside down, you are implying that you can win a fight against anybody inside the bar.
- Placing your hand in a prayer position and your head slightly bent is their traditional greeting called Wai.
- When bowing, the higher your hands, the higher your respect to the certain person.
- Both men and women commonly do a quick flash of eyebrows when greeting.
Other body gestures that are commonly used in greeting, such as handshaking in Western culture, was also adopted in Asia. However, the hand signal O. K. (the thumb and forefinger form a circle, meaning “okay” or “fine” for most cultures) would mean “zero”, “nothing” or “worthless” in other countries like Greece, Italy, Turkey, Brazil and Russia. Another common gesture, the “thumbs up” for a “great job”, is an insult in New Zealand and other African cultures.
Another contrast in meaning is the shaking of head which for most cultures means “No” but it means “Yes” to Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, the tipping of head backward with clicking of tongue means “No” to them.
The differences of meaning with regards to body language might be confusing at first. That’s why we have to familiarize body language of other cultures to avoid getting into trouble.