Body Language And Its Meanings Around The World
Here are the different meanings of gestures prevalent in various cultures.
Body language is partly universal – we think of the smile or charming look, for example – but we must still be vigilant: some gestures do not have the same meaning in all countries, and what can- to be considered respectful in one part of the world is not necessarily on the other side of the globe. The British social Richard Lewis has included in his work When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures the different meanings of certain manias and expressions in international regions. We begin the survey with the vertical head movement which usually means approval or consent, except for Bulgarians and Greeks who use the opposite to say “no”. Visual contact between two interlocutors is practiced in the West, and even more so in Spain, Greece and the Arab countries. A stare on the other hand hinders the Finns and the Japanese, who look at each other in the eyes at the beginning of the conversation. Interesting!
Point lips rather than index
Let’s go to the ears: pulling lightly on his lobe means that the food is good in Portugal, has a sexual connotation in Italy and indicates that a person refuses to pay for his glasses in Spain. Taping his nose means that information is confidential in the UK, when it comes to an unwelcome warning in Italy. Blow in public in the West is common and does not arouse any reaction, when the gesture is very badly seen in Japan. Latin American cultures, Puerto Ricans and Filipinos use lip-service to draw attention to something, as other nationalities do with the index. Talking with the arms is commonplace in Italy and the United States, when it is considered rude in some Northern European countries, especially Japan. The inward movement of the index finger to say “Come here” is seen as an insult in most Asian countries. Finally, cross-legging is common in a large number of countries, while showing his shoe sole to people nearby is disrespectful in Asia and the Middle East. We remember all this for our next trip abroad!