Culture and Body Language

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Culture and Body Language
Katina M. Brown
COM 200: Interpersonal Communication
Katie Decker
November 16, 2009

No matter where we are from, body language is the one form of communication that all humans have in common. We all communicate using our bodies but many gestures can mean very different things in different parts of the world. When traveling to different countries, it is important to realize that something as simple as a nod of the head can have a different meaning than what you intended. How we greet others, our eye movements, our facial expressions, how we sit, how we stand, even how we smile can say to others much more than our verbal words. In many countries, the gestures that we make that convey nonverbal communication may be insulting or seen as offensive. For example, nodding your head in North America is a gesture that means yes or shows affirmation. In parts of Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria, nodding the head means no (Rugsaken, 2006). Nonverbal communication can say much more than what we intend to say. Because most nonverbal communication is unconscious, when traveling abroad it is very important to be aware of meanings of some gestures. In New Zealand, the sign that North Americans use to signal “thumbs up” or thank you is an insult and can lead to arrest if directed toward a police officer. People who are native to Asians countries are more aware of body language than any other groups of people in the world. Direct eye contact in North America signals respect and also lets one know that you are paying attention and listening. In most Asian and African countries, direct eye contact is a sign of disrespect and is challenging. The less eye contact a person shows, the more respect they are showing for a person (Rugasken, 2006). In North America, we are taught to always look a person in the eye, especially during job interviews and other business transactions. This information is important to...
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