Each culture interprets body language, posture, and gesture differently. For example, when someone sticks their middle finger up at you, we as Americans know that is disrespectful. In most Asian countries the middle finger is known for pointing. Some of the younger generation, are aware of its meaning because of their education. When Americans use the okay sign, three fingers up and the index and thumb form a circle, we know that means perfect, satisfactory, or good. In Europe and South America this gesture is degrading, it means ass hole or faggot. This is very disrespectful to a homosexual. Christian Eilers wrote, ”Common Gestures in One Place, but Offensive Elsewhere”, said “thumbs up is similar to the A-Ok sign is only a good thing for the blissfully – ignorant speakers of English.” He also said, “If you are visiting Tehran and couch surfing, for instance, and your host asks you how your meal is afterwards, giving the “thumbs up” is equivalent to saying “Why don’t you just sit on my erect penis?”
Now that is offensive to anybody. Who would have thought giving someone a dozen roses could be insulting? In Eastern Europe, giving someone a dozen roses means inviting death. On the other hand, if you gave someone eleven or thirteen roses it would be okay. Eastern Europe only has problems with even number roses. One of the common gestures that Americans use is “the dog call”, when you have the index- finger moving back and fourth, as a way to call your dog or to request someone’s presence. In the Philippines it is only used for dogs, but if you summon a person, you can get arrested or you may get your finger broken.
Characteristics of ones face might be the only nonverbal communication that is universal. There use to be only six common facial expressions: happy, sad, angry, fear, and surprise. Some researchers have suggested that embarrassment and looks of contempt are now universal expressions. Science Daily wrote an article about facial expressions, it basically states, “we are able to understand facial expression better when it’s moving naturally than when it’s frozen.” Different cultures might not have the same facial expression. For instance, Chinese people rely more on their eyes to represent facial expression. Western Caucasians rely more on their eyebrows and mouth to make a statement.
Body language is the way we stand, smile, and make eye contact. Everyone uses body language all the time. The way we stand can mean so much, such as showing confidence. It is not a good idea for a woman to cross her ankles while she is standing because it shows signs of insignificance and shy. A confident pose is to stand straight with your ankles uncross. We are taught to look people in the eyes when they are talking, but in other cultures (Hispanics, Asian, and Middle Eastern) eye contact is thought to be disrespectful. The women have to avoid eye contact with men sometimes because it could be taken as a sexual interest.
We are sending nonverbal messages all the time. Sometimes they help us and other times they hurt us. Several people think that shaking another person hand is not important, but it actually matters, especially when you go on job interviews. A first impression of someone is not usually verbal, it’s your wardrobe. Society tends to trust someone more put together than someone who is not. Also your voice plays a part in nonverbal communication. People from the north do not have a creditable reputation because they have a tendency not to use vowels when they talk. Southerners reputation for being kind and neighborly is because they use vowels when they are speaking. It is more inviting to hear someone using vowels. Your foot plays an important role in body language too.
They’re the first part of the body to respond to stress because of your “fight or flight” system. If you’re on a job interview and the interviewer’s feet are bouncing around that means they want to leave. So you would have to grab their attention. If their toes are pointing toward the door, that is a bad sign, but if their toes are facing you, that is a good sign. Then you have to check out his posture, if he is leaning toward you or away from you. Closeness is a value in some cultures, but Americans tend to not like someone in their personal space. So just watch how close you get to your interviewer. You should try to avoid your nervous habits. Nervous habits can make one think that you’re not confident and then you won’t be taken seriously. A way to control your nervous habits is to train yourself to breathe low and comfortably.
In conclusion, experts say 60% of communication is nonverbal. Many people don’t realize how much nonverbal communication they use. You can tell or read a person very well if you know how to read body language. This is an important skill to know because if you’re a traveler, it will definitely help you out in other countries. You should do your research before you go out of town. All in all, nonverbal communication can help you through your life.