Effective communication in different cultures

Investigation differences in speech among cultures, which can lead to a communicative breakdown. Verbal styles in 10 select countries. Differences between Japanese and American communication styles. Non-verbal communication in diverse cultures.

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International university of  угgyzstan

Faculty of linguistics

Effective communication in different cultures

Course paper

Done by: Kanatbekova Zeynep

Bishkek 2014


communication verbal style culture


1. Communication

1.2 Types of communication

2. Culture

3. Verbal communication styles

3.1 Verbal styles in 10 select countries

3.2 Differences between Japanese and American communication styles

4. Types of non-verbal communication

4.1 Non-verbal communication in diverse cultures

5. Silence

5.1 Forms of silence




In times of globalization, the global village and the Internet, the aspect of intercultural communication becomes more and more important. People have the possibility to travel across continents, students are highly recommended to pass an internship in a foreign country and bigger enterprises will hardly survive without introducing their products in foreign markets or merging with foreign companies in order to establish a multinational company. Therefore the knowledge of at least one foreign language is definitely a crucial skill one should have. But being able to transform a word or a sentence from a native into a foreign language does not guarantee a trouble-free course of a conversation led by members with different cultural backgrounds. It is at least as important to be aware of how language is used in another culture and to see through the culturally specific patterns of communication. Thus, one has to get away from the ethnocentric view in order to investigate differences in speech and to be able to recognize the true intention of the interlocutor. Only the ability to interpret the spoken and unspoken in the right way combined with a good knowledge of a language will lead to a successful and smooth conversation.

The intention of this paper is to investigate differences in speech among cultures, which can lead to a communicative breakdown.

In the first chapter it is written about what communication is and its types. It is narrated about general meaning of word culture in the second chapter. And it is told about cultural dimensions in order to distinguish one culture from another. A table showing the degrees of different countries in low and high context cultures is given. In the third chapter the styles of verbal communication take place. Below a table follows showing verbal styles in ten select countries. Then differences between Japanese and American communication styles are shown. It is narrated about the types of non-verbal communication in the fourth chapter. In addition, meanings of body language in diverse cultures are described. The fifth chapter is devoted to silence since it is unavoidable in communication. Every culture treats silence differently. If one culture tends to make long pauses, for another culture it may be unusual to make long pauses.

1. Communication

Communication is the process of transferring information from a sender to a receiver with the use of a medium in which the communicated information is understood by both sender and receiver. It is a process that allows organisms to exchange information by several methods.

In its simplest form communication is the use of words to describe and convey a message or give information to another person. We communicate using language as a code to share information, ideas and feelings.

The following diagram was developed by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver (1949 The mathematical theory of communication) to explain how communication works:

When one person sends a message to another, as the diagram shows, the person sending the message (represented as the circle on the left) has to encode their thoughts and feelings. They have to find some words or actions that will be a code for their meaning. The person receiving the message (represented as the circle on the right) can't read the sender's mind; they have to decode the words or actions to understand what the sender meant.

1.2 Types of communication

There are two main types of communication, verbal and non-verbal, which we will look at in more detail below:

Verbal communication

Verbal communication occurs when a person puts across their message by speaking. The person sending the message is expected to be able to convey a message which clearly expresses all of their feelings, needs, wants, dreams, hopes, messages, values, beliefs and thoughts using the language that we have available to us. The receiver has to be able to listen to the information, understand all that that was communicated to them, and, if need be, act upon any part of the message.

If the receiver misunderstands the message, the sender can get upset and feel like they are not being listened to. This can cause friction, tension, conflict, even anger. To avoid misunderstandings, the receiver of the message needs to be skilled enough to know how to understand the sender of the message. This is when reflective listening can be of great assistance.

What can also make a huge difference are the tonal qualities of your voice. The tone, pitch, volume, timbre and speed of your voice has a significant impact on how the message you are trying to get across to someone is actually received by them.

Non-verbal communication

Only one third of a message that is sent in a person-to-person exchange is in words alone, the other two thirds of the message is made up of non-verbal communication. Therefore, non-verbal communication is very important.

2. Culture

Basically, all human beings have the same biological characteristics. Everybody has the ability to sleep, eat, move etc2. But throughout our socialisation process we learn patterns of thinking, feeling and potential acting from our environment, i.e. from close relatives, neighbourhood, friends, school etc. Especially during our childhood we acquire such patterns, which are established more and more firmly the older we are. Hofstede calls these patterns "mental programs" or "software of the mind". He compares the acquisition of patterns by a human being with the programming of a computer. Of course members of the same culture do not all and always (re)act in the same way and (re)actions are not entirely predictable due to individual personalities. But knowing the cultural background of a person helps understanding and, to some extent, predicting likely (re)actions.. I.e. culture is "a shared programme for behaviour" or "It is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another."

2.1 Cultural Variability

We should learn more about how to distinguish one culture from another.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

The `individualism - collectivism dimension? is the "major dimension of cultural variability". People in collectivistic societies "live in societies in which the interest of the group prevails over the interest of the individual." People see themselves as a part of a specific group. The members of this group are first members of the "extended family", but also co-workers, colleagues or classmates.

One?s identity derives from of the group and one would never think of breaking the loyalty towards the group. That means that there is lifelong loyalty and goals of the `in-group? are more important than personal goals. The `we? identity takes precedence over the `I? identity in collectivistic cultures.

In conclusion we can say that "Collectivism pertains to societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people?s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty."

In contrast," the `I? identity has precedence in individualistic cultures over the `we? identity" Individual goals are considered more important than those of the in-group and in order to achieve a goal it is possible to break with the `in-group?.

"Group membership shifts and people move from group to group, without much recognition of those left behind in the earlier groups."

Members of individualistic cultures "are supposed to look after themselves and their immediate family only ". They are taught to stand on their own two feet and one is never "supposed to be dependent on a group."

The identity is taken from the personal `I? which differs from other people?s `I?. So everyone is considered as an individual with individual talents and goals and "the ties between individuals are loose."

Low vs. High context communication

Members of cultures with high-context communication send messages "in which most of the information is either in the physical context or internalised in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message." Both, sender and speaker, are involved in a specific context. The speaker does not express his intention in an explicit way but he/she expects from his/her interlocutor to understand the meaning of the message within its context.

In contrast, the low-context communication is one "in which the mass of the information is vested in the explicit code". The receiver does not have to take a complex context into consideration, when decoding the message. What must be said, will be said.

It is assumed that high- / low-context communication and the dimensions of individualism and collectivism are "isomorphic", i.e. that high-context communication is used in collectivistic cultures, whereas members of individualistic cultures use low-context communication.

Uncertainty avoidance

Hofstede?s dimension of uncertainty avoidance describes "the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations."

He distinguishes low and high uncertainty avoidance. Members of cultures with high uncertainty avoidance, have lower tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, which expresses itself in higher levels of anxiety and energy release, greater need for formal rules and absolute truth, and less tolerance for people or groups with deviant ideas or behaviour."

Furthermore, they are more likely to show emotional feelings, aggressive behaviour is accepted when a conflict or competition occurs, and there is a strong tendency for consensus.

Members of cultures low in uncertainty avoidance take uncertainty as "a normal feature of life". They have lower levels of anxiety, accept ambiguity, have lower stress levels and a subjective feeling of well-being, just to name a few characteristics.

Power distance

"Power distance is the extent to which less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally."

Power distance describes also the extent to which employees accept that superiors have more power than they have. Furthermore that opinions and decisions are right because of the higher position a person has. In countries with high power distance employees are too afraid to express their doubts and disagreement with their bosses. The index for power distance describes the dependence of relationships in a country. It is small in countries where bosses and subordinates work closely together and consult each other. Subordinates and superiors consider each other more or less as equal even if there are differences in the educational level. The hierarchical system can always change depending on the circumstances. The hierarchies are flat with a decentralized organization and a small number of supervisors who are expected to be accessible to their subordinates. Within a company the degree for unequal treatment is reduced to a low level. There is an interdependence between employer and employee. The salary range is narrow between the top and bottom in companies. Subordinates expect to be consulted during the decision-making process. In contrast in large power distance countries the relation between boss and subordinate is distant and dependent on the decisions of the boss. In companies with larger power distance and a very centralized organization, subordinates expect to be told what to do from their superiors because they consider each other as unequal. Inequalities are normally expected and privileges are seen as something natural by superiors. Centralization is the norm and the salary range is wide. People in high power distance cultures express positive emotions to superiors and negative emotions to subordinates.

3. Verbal Communication Styles

Direct vs. Indirect Style

The direct-indirect style refers to the way of expressing the speaker?s true intention in terms of his needs, wants and desires. Members of individualistic, low-context cultures tend to use the direct style, which corresponds best to the value orientations (honesty, openness, individual worth) of such cultures. The language is therefore used in a straightforward and precise way and emphasises "speaker?s ability to express their intentions.". Categorical words, such as "absolutely" and "certainly", are often employed as well as "no" in order to answer in the negative.

Members of collectivistic, high-context cultures prefer to use the indirect verbal style. Speakers of such cultures often use imprecise and even ambiguous words to communicate their message. By doing so, they "emphasise listener?s abilities to infer speaker?s intentions." An example for indirect speech would be to say `it is somewhat cold today? instead of saying `please close the door?. Qualifiers like "maybe" or "perhaps" are employed to avoid hurting the feelings of other in-group members. Also a direct "no" is mostly circumscribed. They do so in order to keep up group harmony and group conformity, which are, as we have seen in the previous chapter, main concerns in collectivistic cultures.

The difference of the direct and indirect style can provoke a communicative breakdown between the interlocutors. Members of cultures in which the direct style is used have, for example, learned to say `no? when it is necessary. This `no? contains the information, that something is not accepted and emphasizes a different personal point of view towards a topic. To say `no? is normally not seen as impolite or offending, but it is even expected due to the value orientation of honesty and openness.

This is in contrast to the indirect style. The word `no?, in the sense it is used in Western societies, is not pronounced in collective cultures. Asian people rather tend to reply to a question by saying `yes? and by avoiding saying `no?. This is in order to keep up group-harmony and self-face concern. Saying `no? would disturb the positive atmosphere.

As we have mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, collectivistic societies tend to use the indirect style. Iranians for example avoid being embarrassed or embarrassing members of their in-group. They therefore "will often talk around the point(...) and expect the listener to be intuitive enough to discover the hidden message being communicated." They are more likely to use abstract ideas than concrete facts. Presenting bad news is avoided to the extent that "in some instances in which a close family member dies, the communication of this information may be postponed for months and even years."

In conclusion, we can summarise that the use of direct speech in individualistic, low-context cultures, asserts self-face need and self-face concern whereas in collectivistic, high-context cultures, the indirect speech is preferred in order to keep up group harmony and to preserve mutual-face need. Assumptions on values and a "set of deep-rooted historical-political logics" are decisive elements for the choice of one of these two dimensions.

Elaborate vs. Exacting vs. Succinct Style

These three verbal stylistic variations describe the quantity of talk in everyday conversations in different cultures. The elaborate style distinguishes itself by a rich, expressive language, which uses a large number of adjectives describing a noun, exaggerations, idiomatic expressions, proverbs and metaphors. This style is mainly used in cultures of the Middle East such as Iran, Egypt, Lebanon and Saudi-Arabia which are moderate on Hofstede?s uncertainty avoidance dimensions and are high-context cultures. The exacting style can be found in low-context cultures. These are mainly North American and North European cultures. It says that neither more nor less information is required to communicate a message. The speaker just uses those words, which describe exactly the speakers? intention. No additional words or paraphrases are required. Finally, the succinct style refers to the use of understatements, pauses and silences. This style is used in cultures high in uncertainty avoidance and high-context.

Arab cultures tend to use, as we have said, an elaborate language style. It must be chosen because a simple statement could mean the opposite. "If an Arab says exactly what he [or she] means without the expected assertion, other Arabs may still think that he [or she] means the opposite. For example a simple `No? by a guest to the host?s request to eat more or to drink more will not suffice. To convey the meaning that he [or she] is actually full, the guest must keep repeating `No? several times, coupling it with an oath such as `By God? or `I swear to God?."

To Western listeners using mainly the exacting style, the elaborate style may sound exaggerated or even extreme, radical and aggressive. An Arab trying to show his /her point of view towards a topic, may fill his/her statements with many words, metaphors etc., which show in Arab countries firmness and strength on an issue. Vice versa the Arab listener may not understand a simple, clearly pronounced message in the way it is meant by the speaker, but exactly the opposite, due to the necessity of additional expressions in Arab culture. When these two verbal stylistic variations clash in a conversation, a communicative breakdown may occur and, furthermore, the differences are considered to be an important factor, which complicates the relationship between North America and Egypt. The exacting style is similar to Grice?s concept of the `quantity maxim?, which says that "(...) individuals should not give others more or less information than necessary."

The message is clearly spoken out with precise words and there is generally no need to use additional words etc. This style is mainly used in low uncertainty avoidance and low-context cultures like that of the United States, where "the lack of shared assumptions requires the American speaker to verbalize his or her message to make his or her discrete intend clear and explicit." The verbal message contains the message to a great extent. These cultures can handle new situations confrontatively without verbal elaborations or understatements, due to the values of honesty and openness. In contrast, especially to the elaborate style, members of high-context and high uncertainty avoidance cultures use the succinct style, where explicit verbal information does not contain all of the information which is supposed to be transmitted. As the communication pattern of high-context cultures depends heavily on the non-verbal aspect, the verbal message is considered as only a part of the message being communicated. Silence, indirectness, understatements and pauses, too, carry a meaning. The Japanese for instance have developed haragei, or the `art of the belly?, for the meeting of minds without clear verbal interaction. Japanese leaders are actually supposed to perform haragei rather than having verbal abilities.

Silence is a very important aspect in high-context and high uncertainty avoidance cultures. Whereas members of low-context cultures feel rather uncomfortable when silence occurs in everyday conversation, the Japanese have even developed an "aesthetics of silence". "It is viewed as essential to self-realization and sublimation."

Personal vs. Contextual style

As we have already mentioned in the cultural variability chapter, cultures have different assumptions about values. This fact is also reflected in their style of speaking. Members of individualistic, low-context cultures tend to see every individual as equal which is also reflected in their language. North Americans for example prefer a first-name basis and direct address. Using titles, honorifics etc is avoided. They are conscious about equalizing their language and their interpersonal relations. Differences of age, status and sex are no reasons to use different language styles. Therefore they use in their speech the personal style which reflects an egalitarian social order where both, speaker and listener, have the same rights and both use the same language patterns. A person-oriented language stresses informality and symmetrical power relationships.

In contrast, members of collectivistic, high-context cultures find themselves during a conversation in certain roles which can depend on the status of the interlocutors. In the Korean language for example, exist different vocabularies for different sexes, for different degrees of social status or intimacy. Using the right language style in a conversation is a sure sign for a learned person. In the Japanese honorific language, there are not only differences in vocabulary but also differences in grammar. If one fails in choosing the right words it is considered an offence. As we can see, formality is essential in human relations for the Japanese which is in sharp contrast to the North Americans. They are likely to feel uncomfortable in some informal situations. For them, formality "allows for a smooth and predictable interaction(...)".Therefore they employ the verbal contextual style. The contextual style is heavily based on a hierarchical social order and is a rather role-centered language. According to Okabe, the Japanese language can be seen as a status-oriented language which stresses formality and asymmetrical power relationships.

Instrumental vs. Affective style

These dimensions refer to how and to which extent language is used in verbal exchange in order to persuade the interlocutor. That includes the speaker?s attitude toward his listeners. The instrumental style is goal-oriented in verbal exchange and employs a sender-oriented language. Speaker and listener are clearly differentiated. The former transmits an information, idea or opinion while the listener is the receiver of the message. The speaker tries to persuade his or her listener in a confrontational setting with arguments in the step-by-step process viewing himself or herself as "an agent of change". Even if the listener is not ready to accept his counterpart?s opinion and maybe contradicts, the speaker will go on talking in order to achieve a change in the listener?s attitude. Okabe states that "the independent `I? and `you? clash in an argument and try to persuade each other. They go so far as to enjoy argument and heated discussion as a sort of an intellectual game." This kind of arguing is based on the `erabi? or `selective? worldview. It says that "human beings can manipulate their environment for their own purposes, as the speaker consciously constructs his or her message for the purpose of persuading and producing attitude change.

The instrumental style is dominant in individualistic, low-context cultures.

By contrast, the affective style is process-oriented in verbal exchange and uses a receiver-oriented language. The roles of speaker and listener are rather integrated than differentiated and are interdependent. The speaker is not only expected to transmit his or her message, but at the same time to be "considerate about other?s feelings". That means that he or she is supposed to be aware of the listener?s reactions, to interpret them and finally to adjust himself or herself to his or her listener. Hence, the speaker is transmitter and receiver at the same time. On the other hand, the listener is supposed to "catch on quickly" to the speaker?s position, before the speaker must pronounce his intention clearly or logically. He or she is therefore expected to pay attention not only to what is said but also to how something is said. Both sides are supposed to use their "intuitive sense" For Koreans, this intuitive sense is reflected in the concept of `nunchi?. It enables the Koreans to detect whether the interlocutor is pleased with the conversation or not by interpreting the other?s facial expression. In case that one side notices that the other one does not agree with his or her idea, it is most likely that he or she refuses to talk any further. This is in a sharp contrast to speaker using the instrumental style, who would carry on arguing in order to change his or her listener?s attitude.

As the instrumental style is based on the `erabi? worldview, the affective style reflects the `awase? or `adjustive? point of view. It says that "human beings will adapt and aggregate themselves to the environment rather than change and exploit it, as the speaker attempts to adjust himself or herself to the feelings of his or her listeners. Awase is the logic not of choosing between but of aggregating several alternatives."

The affective style is dominant in collectivistic, high-context cultures.

3.1 Verbal styles in 10 select countries

3.2 Differences between Japanese and American Communication Styles

Japanese Ningensei Style of Communication

1. Indirect verbal and nonverbal communication

2. Relationship communication

3. Discourages confrontational strategies

4. Strategically ambiguous communication

5. Delayed feedback

6. Patient, longer term negotiators

7. Uses fewer words

8. Distrustful of skillful verbal communicators

9. Group orientation

10. Cautious, tentative

11. Complementary communicators

12. Softer, heartlike logic

13. Sympathetic, empathetic, complex use of pathos

14. Expresses and decodes complex relational strategies and nuances

15. Avoids decision making in public

16. Makes decision in private venues, away from public eye

17. Decisions via ringi and nemawashi (complete consensus process)

18. Uses go-betweens for decision making

19. Understatement and hesitation in verbal and nonverbal communication

20. Uses qualifiers, tentative, humility as communicator

21. Receiver/listening-centered

22. Inferred meanings, looks beyond words to nuances, nonverbal communication

23. Shy, reserved communicators

24. Distaste for purely business transactions

25. Mixes social and business communication

26. Utilizes matomari or УhintsФ for achieving group adjustments and saving face in negotiating

27. Practices haragei or belly logic and communication

U.S. Adversarial Style of Communication

1. More direct verbal and nonverbal communication

2. More task communication

3. Confrontational strategies more acceptable

4. Prefers more to-the-point communication

5. More immediate feedback

6. Shorter term negotiators

7. Favors verbosity

8. Exalts verbal eloquence

9. More individualistic orientation

10. More assertive, self-assured

11. More publicly critical communicators

12. Harder, analytic logic preferred

13. Favors logos, reason

14. Expresses and decodes complex logos, cognitive nuances

15. Frequent decision making in public

16. Frequent decisions in public at negotiating tables

17. Decisions by majority rule and public compromise is more commonplace

18. More extensive use of direct person-to-person, player-to-player interaction for decisions

19. May publicly speak in superlatives, exaggerations, nonverbal projection

20. Favors fewer qualifiers, more ego-centered

21. More speaker- and message-centered

22. More face-value meaning, more denotative

23. More publicly self-assertive

24. Prefers to Уget down to businessФ or Уnitty grittyФ

25. Tends to keep business negotiating more separated from social communication

26. More directly verbalizes management's preference at negotiating tables

27. Practices more linear, discursive, analytical logic; greater reverence for cognitive than for affective

4. Types of non-verbal communication

There are different types of non-verbal communication which include but are not restricted to:

* Body language

* Physical characteristics and appearance

* Personal space

* Environment

Body language

Body language describes the method of communicating using body movements or gestures instead of, or in addition to, verbal language. The interpretation of body language, such as facial expressions and gestures, is formally called kinesics. Body language includes subtle, unconscious movements, including winking and slight movements of the eyebrows and other facial expressions.

Body language is one of the easiest ways for you to tell what's really going on in a conversation with another person. It can be used to discover all sorts of things such as, knowing when someone is attracted to you, creating romantic interest in someone you desire, detecting truth and lies, portraying confidence and commanding respect in any situation. You can also use body language to put people at ease, make friends instantly, persuade and influence.

Physical appearance

The unfortunate reality is that a lot of people judge us by our physical appearance. Our body shape and size, hair, clothing, hygiene, how we hold ourselves and our persona all communicate something about us. These factors will all influence how people communicate with us. Think about it for a moment - how might you talk to someone who is homeless and living on the streets in ragged clothes? Compare that with how you might talk to someone who wears a business suit and drives a Porsche? How do you talk to your friends, those people who are very similar to you, and you hang out with a lot? Our physical appearance really does communicate a lot about us and can influence how others communicate with us.

Personal space

Personal space refers to the distance that you put between yourself and another person when you are talking to them. Generally one of two messages are being sent, either `I want you to be close to me' or `I want you to keep your distance.' There are four settings where personal space can influence the communication that can take place.

* public - distance in a public meeting.

* social - distance when speaking to strangers including work colleagues.

* personal - distance when speaking to someone of equal status.

* intimate - distance when allowing personal contact and closeness.


It is referred to the spaces we live, learn or work in or use on a daily basis for sport or other activities. The environment can really affect the way communication is taken or understood. The way a room is organized, the color, temperature, ventilation and smells all affect communication. The environment can have both a positive and negative effect on you.

Think about your home for a moment. Does it make you feel good or bad? It is neat, tidy and clean or full of empty cans and pizza boxes? What about your work space? How do you feel when you enter the building and sit at your desk? Imagine if you walked into work one day and found rubbish all over the floor, how would you feel about your work environment then?

At any of these stages, misunderstandings can occur. These can easily lead to hurt, anger or confusion. If our feelings don't fit with the words, it tends to be the non-verbal communication that gets heard and believed. Try saying `I love you' to your partner in a flat, bored tone of voice without looking at him or her, and see what reaction you get!

4.1 Non-verbal communication in diverse cultures

Body Language

Only as less as 15% is expressed with words. That means more than 50% is expressed through your body.


Eye contacts: confidence in America, Canada, Europe, most Asian countries and Africa.

Raising eyebrows: УYesФ in Thailand and some Asian countries; УHelloФ in the Philippines.

Winking eye - sharing secret in America and Europe; flirtatious gesture in other countries.


Nodding the head: УyesФ in most societies; УnoФ in some parts of Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

Tossing the head backward: УyesФ in Thailand, the Philippines, India, Laos. Rocking head slowly, back and forth: Уyes, I'm listeningФ in India and Thailand.

Closed eyes: bored or sleepy in America; УI'm listening and concentrating.Ф in Japan, Thailand, China


Ear grasp: УI'm sorry.Ф in India.

Cupping the ear: УI can't hear you.Ф in all societies.

Pulling ear: УYou are in my heartФ for Navajo Indians.


Holding the nose: УSomething smells bad.Ф universal.

Nose tap: УIt's confidential.Ф England; УWatch out. Be careful.Ф Italy


Cheek screw: gesture of praise in Italy; УThat's crazy.Ф in Germany;

Cheek stroke: Уpretty, attractive, successФ in most Europe

Lips and mouth

Kiss: In parts of Asia, kissing is considered an intimate sexual act and not permissible in public, even as a social greeting.

Kissing sound: To attract attention in the Philippines, to beckon a waiter in Mexico.

Finger tip kiss: In France, it conveys several messages, УThat's good!Ф УThat's great!Ф УThat's beautiful!.Ф

Pointing to nose: УIt's me.Ф in Japan

Blowing nose: In Japan and many Asian countries, blowing the nose at social gathering is very impolite.

Spitting: Spitting in public is considered rude and crude in most Western cultures. In the PRC and some other Asian countries, spitting in public is very common.

The lip pointing

Lip pointing: (a substitute for pointing with the hand or finger) is common among Filipinos, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, and many Latin Americans.

Open mouth: Any display of the open mouth is considered very rude in most countries.


Some cultures, like the Italians, use the arms freely. Others, like the Japanese, are more reserved; it is considered impolite to gesticulate with broad movements of the arms. Folding arms are interpreted by some social observers as a form of excluding self, УI am taking a defensive posture,Ф or УI disagree with what I am hearing.Ф

Arms in front Hands grasped: common practice in most Asian countries, is a sign of mutual respect for others.

Arms behind back Hands grasped: a sign of ease and control.


Of all the body parts, the hands are probably used most for communicating non-verbally. Hand waves are used for greetings, beckoning, or farewells.

The American Уgood-byeФ wave can be interpreted in many parts of Europe and Latin America as the signal for Уno.Ф

The Italian Уgood-byeФ wave can be interpreted by Americans as the gesture of Уcome here.Ф

Beckoning: to get attention, Americans raise a hand with the index finger raised above head. The Japanese beckon with a waving motion with the palm down and the hand flapping up and down at the wrist. These both gestures could be considered rude in each other's country. The American Уcome hereФ gesture could be seen as an insult in most Asian countries. In China, to beckon a waiter to refill your tea, simply turn your empty cup upside down.


A handshake is a short ritual in which two people grasp one of each other, in most cases accompanied by a brief up and down movement of the grasped hands.


In casual non-business situations, men are more likely to shake hands than women. It is considered to be in poor taste to show dominance with too strong a handshake; conversely, too weak a handshake could also be considered unseemly due to people perceiving it as a sign of weakness. In Continental European countries, people shake hands almost every time upon meeting in business situations and also in casual non-business situations

In Belgium, it is expected that everyone in the group shake hands upon meeting and also when leaving a meeting. In Switzerland, it is expected to shake the women's hands first. Otherwise, shaking hands in order of rank is regarded as appropriate. Austrians shake hands when meeting, including with children. In Sudan, people who know each other a good pat on the shoulder of the other before shaking hands. In China, where a weak handshake is also preferred, people shaking hands will often hold on to each other, for an extended period after the initial handshake.

In Japan, it is appropriate to let the Japanese initiate the handshake, and a weak handshake is preferred. In South Korea, a senior person will initiate a handshake, where it is preferred to be weak. It is a sign of respect to grasp the right arm with the left hand when shaking hands. In the Middle East, a gentle grip is appropriate. In most Asian cultures, a gentle grip and an avoidance of direct eye contact is appropriate. Hand-holding among the same sex is a custom of special friendship and respect in several Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

Right hand:The right hand has special significance in many societies. In certain countries in the Middle East and in Asia, it is best to present business cards or gifts or to pass dishes of food, to get an attention, using only the right hand. Left hand is considered unclean in much of the Middle East and in parts of Indonesia.

Hang loose: (thumb and little finger extended) Has different meanings: in Hawaii, it's a way of saying, УStay cool,Ф or УRelax.Ф in Japan, it means six. In Mexico (do vertically), it means, УWould you like a drink?Ф

Suicide gesture: In the U.S., a person points a forefinger to the temple, thumb pointing upward. In Japan, a stabbing motion to the stomach is used. In parts of Asia, putting one hand to throat in a choking motion is the signal for suicide.

Clapping hands: Russians and Chinese may use applause to greet someone. In many central and eastern Europe, audience frequently clap in rhythm.


The УO.K.Ф signal (the thumb and forefinger form a circle): means Уfine,Ф or УO.K.Ф in most cultures. A cheery affirmation in American culture. Means you're worth zero in France and Belgium. Is a vulgar sexual invitation in Greece and Turkey.

Thumbs-up: УO.K.Ф Уgood jobФ or УfineФ in most cultures; УUp yours!Ф in Australia; УFiveФ in Japan; УOneФ in Germany. Avoid a thumbs-up in these countries: Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Russia, and most African countries.

Pointing: Pointing with the index finger is common in North America and Europe. It is considered impolite in Japan and China where they favor using the whole open hand. Malaysians prefer pointing with the thumb.

Legs and feet

In Thailand, do not point with your toes. In Thailand, Japan, China, Malaysia, France; do not put your feet up on a desk or any other piece of furniture.

Sitting cross-legged is common in North America and some European countries. УRoyal CrossФ is common in England.

In Japan, Thailand, and China, a solid and balanced sitting posture is the prevailing custom. Sitting cross-legged shows the sign of disrespect. In the Middle East and parts of Asia, resting the ankle over the other knee risks pointing the sole of your shoe at another person, which is considered a rude gesture.


Walking can reflect many characteristics of a culture. For example, In Thailand and some of the Middle Eastern countries, men who are friends may walk holding each other's hand. In Japan and Korea, women commonly walk a pace or two behind male companion. Asians often regard Western women as bold and aggressive, for they walk with a longer gait and a more upright posture.

5. Silence

Bruneau stated that silence is to speech as the white of this paper is to this print. Physiologically, silence appears to be the mirror image of the shape of discernible sound for each person. Speech signs, created by necessity or will, appear to be mentally imposed grounds of silence. Mind creates both. The entire system of spoken language would fail without man?s ability to both tolerate and create sign sequences of silence-sound-silence units. In other words, significations of speech signs are possible because of their interdependence with imposed silence.


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