Basic Cross-Cultural Communication
When trying to communicate with people of another country or culture, it is very important to know their customs and body language. Body symbols vary greatly from one region and can have vastly different meanings. It is very important to know the basic body language of other cultures so that you communicate exactly what you mean to.
Most regions of the world have their own specific way of greeting others. Though there are
obviously many different gestures for greeting others in another country, the most common are
- America, Europe : Handshake, wave of the hand.
- South America : Handshake with pat on the back.
- India, Thailand : Hands folded chest-high with a slight bow
- Middle East : Right hand touching heart, then forehead, finally upward
- Japan : Bowing
- Taiwan: China, and Singapore : Handshake with slight head nod.
Every country also has its own specific insults as well. When traveling to a foreign country,
these should be avoided at all costs.
Use of Personal Space:
- North and South America : closed fist with middle finger up
- Middle East : Palm down, fingers spread, with middle finger straight down
- Russia : arm bent at the elbow, shaking fist
- Greece : arm out, palm facing away from you
- Italy : palm out, forefinger and pinky up
People from different areas of the world generally have different views on the use of personal
space and casual touching during a conversation.
- USA, Canada, Australia, and Northern Europe : Usually 12-15 inches of personal space per person. Excessive touching is usually avoided.
- Southern Europe, China, and Russia : Less personal space is required. Most casual couching is usually accepted.
- Mexico, South America, and the Middle East : Little personal space needed. Casual touching, and even holding hands considered normal.
- Asia : Personal space greatly valued. Touching during casual conversations is to be avoided.