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8 Nonverbal Communication Differences Between Cultures

Skip to the main content Nonverbal communication variations across cultures arise as a result of the diverse ways in which people throughout the world interpret behaviors in social interaction in their own cultures. Understanding the variations in nonverbal communication between cultures is essential for people who wish to pursue a career in the worldwide business world.

How Is Nonverbal Communication Affected By Culture?

Culture and country influence the types of nonverbal communication that are used. However, the areas of disagreement tend to fall into one of the eight categories listed below. Each presents a specific area in which persons conducting business in other regions of the globe should be aware of the nonverbal communication disparities that exist across cultures, as well as how to prepare for them.

Eye Contact

In the West, eye contact is a show of confidence; but, in parts of Asia and the Middle East, it can be interpreted as disrespectful or confrontational. Eye contact is also subject to gender restrictions, with many Eastern cultures prohibiting women from initiating direct eye contact with males since it is perceived as a sign of power or sexual desire.


Touch is commonly employed in communication, even in a professional atmosphere, as seen by rituals such as the handshake, which are commonplace. Other cultures, on the other hand, consider touching other individuals to be unacceptable. When it comes to touching, those who reside in Asia tend to be more cautious, with a bow often substituting a handshake in most situations. Patting someone on the back of the head is another illustration of the contrasts between touching and hugging. In the United States, it is seen as adorable and demonstrates affection for youngsters.

Other aspects of American culture are more traditional, such as the practice of not kissing on the cheek as is common in many parts of Europe.


Many multinational entrepreneurs train themselves to minimize hand gestures to a bare minimum since they may be a bit of a minefield when communicating across cultures. For example, pointing towards someone else is considered an insult in most areas of the globe, while it is frequently used as a reference in other parts of the world. Other cultures do not accept Polynesians extending their tongues to welcome others, as they do in other areas of the world. The most common gesture in the world is a nod, yet even this may indicate different things in different cultures depending on the context.

Physical Distance

Give individuals more space than you believe they need in this situation, regardless of where you are in the globe. You can only come near if you are invited. Physical distance is perceived differently by people from various cultures. However, it is recommended not to enter anyone’s personal space, which is around 2 feet. Many people find close closeness to be unpleasant, even if it is not a personal intimate situation.

Facial Expressions

The good news is that the facial emotions indicating happiness, sorrow, rage, and fear are universally recognized and understood.

The bad news is that not every culture is comfortable with them being used in a corporate situation, which is unfortunate. The Japanese, for example, strive to maintain a neutral facial expression because they believe that revealing your feelings burdens the other person with your presence.


The most secure option is to dress conservatively. Some parts of the United States are happy with people dressing in a fairly loose manner, whilst others consider simply an exposed shoulder or leg to be a source of offense. The most sensible option is to dress in a conservative manner. As soon as it becomes evident that this is okay, you may also loosen up your clothes.


Once again, the usual path is the most direct one to go. When sitting, avoid slouching or sitting with your legs crossed. Make eye contact with individuals when they talk to you and nod sufficiently to demonstrate that you are paying attention to what they are saying. Make a conscious effort to be attentive of where you sit in meetings; in certain cultures, there is a fixed hierarchy for who gets to sit where.


Paralanguage is a term used to describe communication that is vocalized but does not use words. This comprises the tone of voice, the volume of the voice, the pace of the speech, and the inflection. Paralanguage is essential for comprehending the context or meaning of the words that are being utilized. Important to be aware of these concerns and to recognize that they are not apparent in emails and messages, which means that you must exercise extreme caution when selecting your language.

High-Context vs. Low-Context

The distinction between high context and low context cultures may also be used to aid in the study of cultural differences in nonverbal communication, as can be shown in the diagram below. Nonverbal communication is more important in high-context societies than it is in low-context cultures. Meaning is conveyed through human interactions, societal structures, and cultural knowledge, among other things. Words have a greater significance in civilizations with less background. Communication is straightforward, relationships are established and terminated fast, and hierarchies are unstructured.

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Non-verbal Communication in Different Cultures

Non-verbal communication is communication that takes place without the use of words and is continuous in nature. Any communication involves the use of body language as well as the context of the surrounding environment. It is not so much what is said as it is how it is spoken and conveyed that matters. A variety of nonverbal communication techniques are used to communicate, including eye contact, hand motions, facial expressions, touch, and gestures, among others. Nonnegotiable communication might range significantly from one person to another and even between cultures.

  1. Because there are variances in the meanings of nonverbal communication between cultures, misinterpretation can arise when people from different cultures communicate with one another.
  2. Because many facial emotions, such as the grin and the scream, are natural in most civilizations, they are mostly comparable across nations.
  3. The amount to which people communicate their sentiments may also range from culture to culture; for example, some people express their feelings freely while others do not in others.
  4. You don’t have access to a translation or a dictionary, and you can only interact with other people through nonverbal means such as body language.
  5. In a similar vein, you pay money and then depart.
  6. Non-verbal communication may also cause problems in other situations, such as when someone refuse to make eye contact with you or become upset when you do make eye contact with them, among other things.

For example, while someone nods to indicate “yes,” other people may interpret it as “no.” When you nod in Japan, people might interpret it as a signal that you are paying attention to what they are saying. The following are some examples of nonverbal communication disparities between cultures:

Eye Contact

Eye contact is often considered to be a positive gesture in Western cultures. It demonstrates attention, self-assurance, and honesty. Other cultures, such as Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Native American, do not consider it to be a positive reflection of themselves. That phrase is considered harsh and unpleasant by many people. Other cultures, in contrast to Western civilizations, do not regard it to be courteous in the same sense. In Eastern cultures, women should avoid making direct eye contact with males, since it indicates authority or sexual desire on their part.

In most cultures, staring is considered impolite.


In various cultures, gestures such as the thumbs up can be understood in a variety of ways. In many cultures, it is seen as a “All right” sign, although in others, such as Latin American cultures, it is regarded as a vulgarism, and in Japan, some even regard it as money. Some cultures consider snapping fingers to summon the attention of a waiter acceptable, whilst others consider it to be disrespectful and extremely rude. In some cultures of the Middle East, showing one’s feet is considered offensive.

In Polynesia, individuals greet one another by sticking out their tongues, which is regarded as a gesture of ridicule in most other cultural traditions.


In most cultures, touching is considered disrespectful behavior. Greeting someone with a handshake is considered appropriate in many cultures. In a similar vein, the acceptability of kisses, embraces, and a variety of other physical contact varies from culture to culture. People in Asia are more cautious when it comes to nonverbal communication of this nature. Distinct cultures have different interpretations of patting one’s head or one’s shoulder. Patting a child’s head is considered a very harmful signal in several Asian cultures since the head is considered to be holy.

The location and manner in which you are touched or touched alters the meaning of touch.


Appearance is another type of nonverbal communication that may be used. People are assessed based on their physical appearance. Racial distinctions, as well as variances in attire, reveal a great deal about a person. The importance of maintaining one’s appearance is recognized in most cultures as a vital component of one’s personality. In contrast, what is considered a nice appearance varies from culture to culture and from person to person. Modesty may also be determined by one’s physical appearance.

Body Movement and Posture

Body motions provide information or convey a message to the viewer. It reveals what other people think or feel about you. People that do not look at you when they are talking might be uneasy or shy, and this can indicate that they are. It might also indicate that the person does not wish to converse with you. Other bodily gestures, such as moving closer or farther away from the speaker, might convey confidence, strength, or an attempt to exert control over the situation.

Postures such as sitting straight or slouching can also reveal a person’s emotional state. Hands in pocket are also considered disrespectful in some cultures. In Ghana and Turkey, for example, it is considered impolite to sit with your legs crossed while talking.

Facial Expressions

The expression on one’s face conveys feelings, attitudes, and emotions. The degree to which people express themselves facially is governed by culture. Compared to their Asian counterparts, people from the United States express their feelings more openly. People from different cultures have been demonstrated to have facial expressions that are comparable over the world, but they do not display them in public. The meanings of these are universally recognized across the world. Too much expression is considered shallow in certain quarters, while too little expression is considered weak in others.

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What we communicate is also determined by how we communicate. For example, voice tones, loudness, rhythm, pitch, and so on communicate more than what is expressed in words. Asian individuals keep their voices down since they are trained not to yell from an early age in their culture. They are referred to as “vocal qualifiers.” Vocal characterizations like sobbing, wailing, shouting, etc. modify the meaning of the message. In certain cultures, giggling is considered a negative gesture. Many more emotions may be expressed through vocal distinctions, and all of them are incorporated in paralanguage as well.

Physical Space (Proxemics)

People from various cultural backgrounds have varying levels of tolerance for physical space between them. Others in Middle Eastern cultures like getting close to others and conversing with them, yet in other cultures, doing so may cause people to become fearful. Far Europeans and Americans are not as accepting of the breaking of physical barrier as they should be, and Asians are even less accepting of it. People have their own personal space into which they do not like to be intruded upon. Close physical contact between strangers is permitted in certain cultures, even when the interaction is between strangers.

Nonverbal Communication

Part I: Read the following article, then complete the items that follow.”He didn’t look at me once. I know he’s guilty. Never trust a person who doesn’t look you in the eye.”-American Police Officer-“Americans smile at strangers. I don’t know what to think of that.”-Russian Engineer-“Americans seem cold. They seem to get upset when you stand close to them.”- Jordanian Teacher-

A The American police officer, the Russian engineer, and the Jordanian teacher made these comments about interactions they had with someone from a different culture. Their comments demonstrate how people can misinterpret nonverbal communication that is culturally different from their own. Of course, this can also happen in conversation among individuals of the same cultural background, but it doesn’t not usually happen as often or to the same degree. Many people think that all they really need to pay attention to in a conversation is the spoken word. This is far from the truth!
B Language studies traditionally emphasized verbal and written communication. Since about the 1960’s, however, researchers seriously began to consider what takes place without words in conversations. In some instances, more nonverbal than verbal communication occurs. For example, if you ask an obviously depressed person, “What’s wrong?” and he answers “Nothing, I’m fine.” you probably won’t believe him. Or when an angry person says “Let’s forget this subject. I don’t want to talk about it anymore!” she hasn’t stopped communicating. Her silence and withdrawal continue to convey emotional meaning.
C One study done in the United States showed that 93 percent of a message was transmitted by the speakers tone of voice and facial expressions. Only 7 percent of the person’s attitude was conveyed by words. Apparently, we express our emotions and attitudes more nonverbally than verbally.
Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Communication
D Nonverbal communication expresses meaning or feeling without words. Universal emotions, such as happiness, fear, sadness, are expressed in a similar nonverbal way throughout the world. There are, however, nonverbal differences across cultures that may be a source of confusion for foreigners. Let’s look at the way people express sadness. In many cultures, such as the Arab and Iranian cultures, people express grief openly. They mourn out loud, while people from other cultures (e.g., China and Japan) are more subdued. In Asian cultures, the general belief is that is is unacceptable to show emotion openly (whether sadness, happiness, or pain).
E Let’s take another example of how cultures differ in their nonverbal expression of emotion. Feelings of friendship exist everywhere in the world, but their expression varies. It is acceptable in some countries for men to embrace and for women to hold hands; in other countries, these displays of affection are discouraged or prohibited.
F As with nonverbal communication, what is considered usual or polite behavior in one culture may be seen as unusual or impolite in another. One culture may determine that snapping fingers to call a waiter is appropriate, whereas another may consider this gesture rude. We are often not aware of how gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and the use of conversational distance affect communication. To interpret another culture’s style of communication, it is necessary to study the “silent language” of that culture.
Gestures and Body Positioning
G Gestures are specific body movements that carry meaning. Hand motions alone can convey many meanings: “Come here,” Go away,” It’s okay,” and “That’s expensive!” are just a few examples. The gestures for these phrases often differ across cultures. For example, beckoning people to come with the palm up is common in the United States. This same gesture in the Philippines, Korea, and parts of Latin America as well as other countries is considered rude. In some countries, only an animal would be beckoned with the palm up.
H As children, we imitate and learn to use these nonverbal movements to accompany or replace words. When traveling to another country, foreign visitors soon learn that not all gestures are universal. For example, the “O.K.” gesture in the American culture is a symbol for money in Japan. This same gesture is obscene in some Latin American countries. (This is why the editors of a Brazilian newspaper enjoyed publishing a picture of a former American president giving the “O.K.” symbol with both hands!)
I Many American business executives enjoy relaxing with their feet up on their desks. But to show a person from Saudi Arabia or Thailand the sole of one’s foot is extremely insulting, because the foot is considered the dirtiest part of the body. Can you imagine the reaction in Thailand when a foreign shoe company distributed an advertisement showing a pair of shoes next to a sacred sculpture of Budda?
Facial Expressiveness
J Facial expressions carry meaning that is determined by situations and relationships. For instance, in American culture the smile is typically an expression of pleasure. Yet it also has other functions. A woman’s smileat a police officer does not carry the same meaning as the smile she gives to a young child. A smile may show affection, convey politeness, or disguise true feelings. For example many people in Russia consider smiling at strangers in public to be unusual and even suspicious behavior. Yet many Americans smile freely at strangers in public places (although this is less common in big cities). Some Russians believe that Americans smile in the wrong places; some Americans believe that Russians don’t smile enough. In Southeast Asian cultures, a smile is frequently used to cover emotional pain or embarrassment. Vietnamese people may tell the sad story of how they had to leave their country but end the story with a smile.
K Our faces reveal emotions and attitudes, but we should not attempt to “read” people from another culture as we would “read” someone from our own culture. The degree of facial expressiveness one exhibits varies among individuals and cultures. The fact that members of one culture do not express their emotions as openly as do members of another does not mean that they do not experience emotions. Rather, there are cultural restraints on the amount of nonverbal expressiveness permitted. For example, in public and formal situations many Japanese do not show their emotions as freely as Americans do. More privately and with friends, Japanese and Americans seem to show their emotions similarly. Many teachers in the United States have a difficult time knowing whether their Japanese students understand and enjoy their lessons. The American teacher is looking for more facial responsiveness than what the Japanese student is comfortable with in the classroom situation.
L It is difficult to generalize about Americans and facial expressiveness because of individual and ethnic differences in the United States. People from certain ethnic backgrounds in the United States tend to more facially expressive than others. The key, is to try not to judge people whose ways of showing emotions are different. If we judge according to our own cultural norms, we may make the mistake of “reading’ the other person incorrectly.
Eye Contact
M Eye contact is important because insufficient or excessive eye contact can create communication barriers. In relationships, it serves to show intimacy, attention, and influence. As with facial expressions, there are no specific rules governing eye behavior in the United States, except that is is considered rude to stare, especially at strangers. In parts of the United States, however, such as on the West Coast and in the South, it is quite common to glance at strangers when passing them. For example, it is usual for two strangers walking toward each other to make eye contact, smile, and perhaps even say “Hi,” before immediately looking away. This type of contact doesn’t mean much; it is simply a way of acknowledging another person’s presence. In general, Americans make less eye contact in bus stations, for example, than in more comfortable settings such as a university student center.
N Patterns of eye contact are different across cultures. Some Americans feel uncomfortable with the “gaze” that is sometimes associated with Arab or Indian communication patterns. For Americans, this style of eye contact is too intense. Yet too little eye contact may also be viewed negatively, because it may convey a lack of interest, inattention, or even mistrust. The relationship between the lack of eye contact and mistrustin the American culture is stated directly in the expression “Never trust a person who doesn’t look you in the eyes.” In contrast, in many other parts of the world (especially in Asian countries), a person’s lack of eye contact toward an authority figure signifies respect and deference.
Conversation Distance
O Unconsciously, we all keep a comfortable distance around us when we interact with other people. This distance has had several names over the years, including “personal space,” “interpersonal distance,” “comfort zone,” and “body bubble.” This space between us and another person forms invisible walls that define how comfortable we feel at various distances from other people.
P The amount of space changes depending on the nature of the relationship. For example, we are usually more comfortable standing closer to family members than to strangers. Personality also determines the size of the area with which we are comfortable when talking to people. Introverts often prefer to interact with others at a greater distance than do extroverts. Culture styles are important too. A Japanese employer and employee usually stand farther apart while talking than their American counterparts. Latin Americans and Arabs tend to stand closer than Americans do when talking.
Q For Americans, the usual distance in social conversation ranges from about an arm’s length to four feet. Less space in the American culture may be associated with either greater intimacy or aggressive behavior. The common practice of saying “Excuse me,” for the slightest accidental touching of another person reveals how uncomfortable Americans are if people get too close. Thus, a person whose “space” has been intruded upon by another may feel threatened and react defensively. In cultures where close physical contact is acceptable and even desirable, Americans may be perceived as cold and distant.
R Culture does not always determine the message of nonverbal communication. The individual’s personality, the context, and the relationship also influence its meaning. However, like verbal language, nonverbal language is linked to person’s cultural background. People are generally comfortable with others who have “body language” similar to their own. One research study demonstrated that when British graduate students imitated some Arab patterns of nonverbal behavior (making increased eye contact, smiling, and directly facing their Arab partners), the Arabs felt that these students were more likeable and trustworthy than most of the other British students.
S When one person’s nonverbal language matches that of another, there is increased comfort. In nonverbal communication across cultures there are similarities and differences. Whether we choose to emphasize the former or the latter, the “silent language” is much louder than it first appears.
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Nonverbal Communication in Different Cultures – Freely Magazine

Consider the following scenario: Your buddy is demonstrating a new pair of shoes that she recently purchased. However, despite the fact that you do not care for the hue, you feel obligated to appreciate it by saying, “These look fantastic!” Despite your best efforts to avoid upsetting your buddy, you see that your brows have curled into a scowl since you don’t believe they are very attractive. Here’s an example of nonverbal communication at its best: Nonverbal communication, as opposed to verbal communication, typically incorporates additional contexts.

As we go about our daily lives, we may have heard about a variety of nonverbal personality traits that have been attributed to various cultural groups, giving rise to stereotypes such as Asians do not reveal their true emotions; Americans are phony; Japanese people are polite but apathetic, and so on.

  • Expressions on the face When you examine the larger cultural context of a person’s laughter or smile, it is possible that it does not merely indicate that they are pleased.
  • Keeping one’s true sentiments hidden is considered a sign of maturity in many Asian cultures.
  • Make Direct Eye Contact Each culture has its own interpretation of the meaning of eye contact.
  • If you’re in a business or familial environment, locking your eyes with your boss or other senior members of your team is deemed rude.
  • In a similar vein, in Germany, it is customary for individuals to maintain eye contact when conversing.
  • When people’s palms are facing downwards in Mexico, it indicates that they are measuring the height of an object.
  • When a person nods his or her head, the general public would assume that the individual is saying yeah.
  • For example, in Romania, the average personal distance maintained with strangers is 4.6 feet, but in Argentina, the comfortable distance maintained with individuals you do not know is 2.5 inches.
  • Nowadays, learning how to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries is vital for reducing misunderstandings and for developing positive connections with other people.

We may not be able to become experts in this field, but we will be able to solve issues and negotiate more effectively if we have the capacity to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries.

Non-Verbal Communication Across Cultures

Observe how much of the substance of a conversation is transmitted without using your words the next time you are having one with someone. Consider the following scenario: your employer summons you to her office, presents you your assessment report, and declares, “I am stunned.” You’ll be looking for non-verbal signs regarding your destiny because the report is in a securely sealed envelope and your employer is momentarily unable to communicate. You’ll be looking for hints in her face, gestures, posture, and tone of voice.

  • Or did she murmur them through pursed lips, a deep scowl parting her brows, as if she didn’t mean them?
  • Because our interlocutors do not share our linguistic and cultural backgrounds, non-verbal communication is very important in an intercultural setting.
  • Being honest vs being misunderstood might be the difference between success and failure.
  • It can allow us to communicate and read volumes without understanding a single word of each other’s languages, which is extremely useful.
  • Here’s what he has to say on the serious consequences of nonverbal communication across cultures, in his own words.
  • In order to comprehend this, we must first comprehend the importance of nonverbal behavior in any conversation.
  • That is an example of back channel communication, and it helps to oil the wheels of any type of communication by providing lubrication.

However, nonverbal conduct communicates not only content but also a great deal more.

It facilitates the exchange of emotions, agreements, and conflicts, so assisting us in communicating our objectives in addition to spoken communication.

As an example, think of the people you know who are fluent in many languages yet do not get along well with others from diverse cultures.

It is difficult to communicate effectively with someone who is merely developing their language abilities without also developing the non-verbal actions connected with that language.

This can result in intercultural conflict, misunderstandings, and uncertainties in communication, even when the speaker is fluent in the language.

I am confident that someone who is interculturally competent may travel to any nation where they do not understand the language and still be able to communicate well with the people around them.

3) What suggestions do you have for being more effective when communicating non-verbally with persons from diverse cultural backgrounds and backgrounds?

1.Make an effort to be polite.

2.Exhibit a keen interest.

Inquire about things.

3.Make an effort to gain an understanding of anything significant about your interlocutor’s language and culture.

“Good morning,” “please,” and “thank you” go a long way in smoothing up a variety of encounters.

You’ll also learn and develop as you engage with others.

Is the quickest way to express dissatisfaction.

All other emotions are susceptible to being misunderstood.

Positive thinking, on the other hand, is not frequently misunderstood.

Ask every newlywed about their interpersonal connections, and ask any intercultural communicator about theirs.

In the context of international communication, I believe the most significant benefit is that if you are skilled at non-verbal communication, you can travel anyplace without needing to speak the language and yet communicate well.

Non-verbal communication has been used by humans to transmit and receive signals for a much longer period of time than our languages have existed as a species.

As Dr.

Although we have a propensity to lose sight of our commonalities and instead emphasize our differences, “the majority of people in the world want to get along,” according to Matsumoto, “the majority of people in the world want to get along.” Communication is essential in all interactions, regardless of the situation.

Even when words fail us, we can still communicate.

San Francisco State University’s Dr.

Matsumoto is a professor of psychology and the creator and head of the Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory, which is located on the university’s campus. Author of several books and essays on topics such as culture, psychology, emotion, and nonverbal behavior, he is widely respected.

Cultural differences in nonverbal communication

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You’re Cramping My Style: Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Communication

Communication entails much more than simply exchanging words. Nonverbal behaviors are also used to send and understand information. Nonnegotiable communication enhances verbal communication by offering additional information that goes beyond what is spoken in the conversation. Gestures, greetings, body alignment, facial emotions, and other indications of emotion are all part of the process. Touch, eye contact, and the usage of personal space are all ways in which we communicate with one another.

Approximately 7% of a communication is delivered by words, with the other 38% conveyed through paralanguage, which includes aspects of the voice such as tone, loudness, and inflexion.

What peopledo is unquestionably more significant than what they say about themselves.

And the manner in which something is conveyed is far more essential than the words themselves. This is especially true in high-context societies, where meaning is suggested indirectly through contextual signals rather than being stated explicitly in the text itself.

Cross-cultural challenges

Nonverbal communication, like verbal communication, differs from one culture to the next. To put it another way, knowing how to comprehend and convey nonverbal communication may be just as beneficial as learning a new language. The ability to be flexible in nonverbal communication might be difficult to attain. While verbal behavior is deliberate and aware, nonverbal communication is sometimes unintentional and unintentionally performed. It is tough to govern or adjust as a result of this. Because nonverbal communication is sometimes confusing, it can be difficult to determine what someone is saying.

Nonverbal behaviour and prejudice

Prejudice and discrimination can arise as a result of disparities in nonverbal behavior between cultures. Several studies have discovered that many characteristically Black nonverbal behaviors—including speech disturbances, higher vocal pitch, slower vocal pace, more indirect speech, less eye contact, more smiling, and greater body-language expressiveness—are perceived as indicators of deception by White police officers.

Cross-cultural differences in nonverbal behaviour

The existence of cross-cultural variances in gestures has long been noted. In various cultural contexts, what appears to be the same gesture might have entirely different meanings than it does in one. Depending on the culture, a nod of the head might imply ‘I agree’ in certain cases, but it can also mean ‘I disagree’ in others. Some gestures are specific to a particular culture and cannot be found anywhere else. Gestures may be classified into seven categories, as follows:

  • Arrival and departure signals include, for example, blowing a kiss, beating one’s fist on one’s breast, shaking hands, and hugging. Demonstrating approval in several ways, including applause, nodding “yes,” raising the arms, and giving the “high five” or “thumbs up.” Yawning, folding arms, coughing, finger-wagging, nodding ‘no,’ holding or wrinkling the nose are all examples of expressing dissatisfaction. Attracting a partner using many means such as twitching eyebrows, fluttering eyelids, staring or gazing, winking, and holding hands
  • Offensive and obscene gestures, such as chin-flicking and nose-thumbing are prohibited. Gestures used to emphasize a point, such as chin-stroking, forming a fist, drumming fingers, snapping fingers, and shrugging are examples. Using gestures instead of words: for example, ‘Call me’, with a finger and thumb mimicking the form of a telephone receiver
  • ‘Come here,’ with an upturned palm and index finger curved towards the body
  • And so on.
Body language

Despite the fact that many gestures are made with the hand, other kinds of body language are also employed to communicate message. The Japanese custom of bowing, for example, is based on a rigorous, hierarchical scale that is determined by one’s social standing and rank. In addition, the duration, angle, and frequency of the bow must all be strictly adhered to at all times. Other cultures are more expressive than others in the exhibition of nonverbal behaviors, and some cultures are less expressive than others.

Japanese individuals make less hand, arm, and whole-body motions than do most people in the United States.


There are also disparities in the way people think about and cope with time that exist beyond cultural boundaries. Monochronic civilizations have a linear perspective of time. Time is arranged and split according to the clock in certain societies, such as the United States, which is one example. Typically, people set up a specified amount of time to do a single activity; for example, organizing a meeting in which the whole meeting is devoted to discussing the issue at hand. Time is money in monochronic societies, as everything revolves around it.

  1. Laziness and unreliability are viewed as traits associated with tardiness.
  2. In polychronic civilizations, time is regarded as more flexible and plentiful than in monochronic societies.
  3. Various commercial or social connections may cause a meeting to be interrupted several times over its duration.
  4. It is considered courteous to let a conversation to proceed to its logical conclusion, even if this involves staying late.

On the other hand, when it comes to non-social events, such as business meetings, the Chinese place a high value on punctuality in their culture. The use of time varies from culture to culture and from circumstance to circumstance within a culture.


There are cultural disparities in the amount of personal space that people require in order to feel comfortable in their interactions with others from one culture to another. People who live in densely populated areas tend to require less personal space than those who do not. Where populations are more dispersed, individuals tend to favor more open spaces. Personal space can be violated in ways that are unsettling to certain people’s cultural preferences. It is possible to perceive your partner as cold, timid, or hostile if you are given more actual personal space than your cultural preference dictates.


The way a culture employs touch is connected to the way that culture uses space. People in non-contact cultures seldom touch one another, unless they are on an intimate level with them. North Americans, Germans, English, and a variety of Asian civilizations are examples of non-contact cultures. Contact cultures, on the other hand, often employ physical contact to express compassion toward others, especially in commercial ties. People who live in touch cultures have less personal space and make greater eye contact with one another.

  • There are significant variances in how people react to unintentional contact across cultures.
  • As a result of the high population of Asian countries, people from these cultures have been socialized to disregard unintentional contact.
  • In certain cultures, it is not uncommon for heterosexual males to hold hands with one another as a symbol of friendliness, especially among their peers.
  • Members of the opposing sex are less comfortable with touching one other in societies that are sexually restrictive.
  • While it is acceptable in many areas of Asia to touch someone’s head, in many other parts of the world it is deemed unacceptable since the head is regarded a holy portion of the body.
  • It should not be used to make physical contact with another person or to move items.
Eye contact or gaze

Eye contact is considered to be a sign of attentiveness and honesty in Western cultures. If you don’t look an American in the eyes, you may be viewed as indifferent or untrustworthy, according to the culture. Using your eyes to communicate with your spouse at low power distance and individualistic cultures such as the United States conveys interest in your partner as a partner. Collectivist and high Power Distance cultures, on the other hand, rely on a lack of eye contact to show respect and humility.

In China, it is usual and quite acceptable to look at a stranger or an attractive individual who appears unfamiliar.

Among different ethnic groups in the United States, there are disparities in the way people look and how they behave visually. When white Americans are listening, they keep eye contact; when they are speaking, they lose eye contact. Black Americans, on the other hand, behave in the other way.

Facial or emotional expressions

Anger, disgust, fear, pleasure, sorrow, and surprise are among the six universal facial expressions that have been discovered by researchers as being utilized to transmit emotion. All civilizations are able to recognize and interpret these facial expressions in a comparable fashion. Despite this, individuals all around the globe show their feelings in a variety of ways when they are in social settings. Depending on the social situation, people utilize cultural display guidelines to regulate or adjust the emotional emotions that they exhibit.

Individuals are able to

  • Increase (exaggerate) or de-amplify (decrease) the intensity of their expressions
  • They try to keep their feelings hidden or hidden away. Reduce the intensity of their expressions
  • Improve the quality of their sentiments by expressing them in a variety of ways

When it comes to mood modulation, there are cultural as well as individual variances. Additionally, there are culturally distinct methods in which people convey certain emotions to one another. Smiling is an excellent example. In most cases, it is related with pleasure, although it can also be used to show affection or politeness, or even to conceal actual sentiments. Laughing and smiling are common practices in several Asian societies to conceal emotional discomfort or humiliation. North Americans use their smiles to express friendliness and good will.

Emotions that are experienced and expressed more frequently in a specific cultural environment are referred to as focal emotions.

Cultural values are associated with the emotions that are being focused on.

When it comes to collectivist civilizations, shame is a crucial feeling.

Positive emotions are suppressed in collective societies due to their collective nature.

Physical appearance and attractiveness

Physical appearance and attractiveness have an impact on initial impressions and contribute to the making of rapid judgments about a person’s personal characteristics. An individual whose physical appearance does not adhere to a cultural standard of proper and pleasing physical appearance is viewed as an outsider—or even as a deviant—in the eyes of the community. An individual who is perceived as an outsider is at risk of being stereotyped. An outsider may become socially isolated, or he or she may be subjected to prejudice and discrimination.


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