When you travel around different part of the world, you interact with many different cultures. Learning about different cultures is fun.Sometimes you may not know you are doing some offensive action for another person from a different culture. From eye contact to small talk, learn how body language can be perceived in the different culture.
1. Eye Contact
The eyes are the messengers. But it may give different messages in different cultures. In the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, intermittent eye contact is extremely important to show interest and attention while in Middle Eastern cultures, intense eye contact is done to show trust and sincerity – but that would be inappropriate between opposite genders. Extended eye contact on the other hand is considered a challenge of authority in Asian, African, and Latin American cultures.
In Asia, it is considered to be disrespectful to touch an older person’s head, back, or shoulders. In the Middle East, holding hands of the same sex is allowed while doing this with a friend of the opposite sex publicly is strictly prohibited. In France, touching is not considered as an invasion of personal space. This is also the same with Mediterranean cultures.
3. Personal Space
Some cultures require much more personal space than in the United States. Meanwhile, cultures like in China, Brazil, or Egypt will show you that personal space doesn’t exist at all.
The thumbs-up, the a-ok sign, and the peace sign are known to be positive gestures in some parts of the world. For the rest? They’re offensive. So if possible, keep your hands in your pockets while talking to someone. Oh wait, doing that is disrespectful in other countries like Belgium and Germany.
5. Small Talk
“How are you?” in the United States is often asked but it doesn’t mean that you need to tell the whole story of your life, but rather say the usual “I’m fine.” In Russia however, be ready to get a full honest report. Asking questions about what a person does for a living is offensive for Americans, talking about religion isn’t okay for the Danes and talking about politics during dinner is totally fine for the French.