Although language is the single most important element in communication, it is by no means the only one. It has been said that communication is only 20% verbal while the rest is intonation, body language, etc. 4
Cross-cultural communication The American lifts his eyebrows The Italian presses his forefinger into his cheeck and whistles The Greek strokes his cheek The Brazilian puts an imaginary telescope to his eye The Frenchman kisses his fingertips The Arab grasps his beard. 5
Cross-cultural communication Facial expressions are the most important aspect of body language. Your face is highly visible, it is mobile and flexible, and is capable of indicating your innermost feelings to other people. E.g. your likes and dislikes, or a subtle ‘happy’ face can display your joy at a rival’s misfortune even if you are expressing your deepest sympathy. Emotions are also often displayed in facial expressions even when you would prefer to hide them. Your face = a spontaneous communicator of messages! 7
In many Western countries, particularly in the business culture, direct eye contact is standard procedure. While eye contact can imply sincerity and honesty in other cultures just as it does in e.g. the US, in many Asian countries, including Japan, looking straight into someone’s eyes could be considered intimidating or a sign of aggression. 9
Cross-cultural communication How you move your body, how you stand or sit and the position of your limbs, all reflect your attitudes and feelings about yourself and towards others. 11
Cross-cultural communication In certain circumstances you can use gestures to replace the need for words. Indeed, it might be the only way of communicating is by gestures, especially if you are trying to communicate with someone who does not speak your own language or any other language you know. 12 It is quite often the subconscious gestures, of which you are unaware, that reveal a great deal about your innermost thoughts. Reading and interpreting these unintended gestures can provide a greater understanding of the communication that is taking place.
Cross-cultural communication Think about how much personal distance you generally prefer and then think about the different situations listed below. For each situation indicate whether you would prefer to keep the normal amount of distance, greater than normal, or less than normal. 14 If there are differences, is this culturally related or rather individual? What influences your degree of proximity to other people?
Cross-cultural communication Think about how much touching behaviour is appropriate in your culture, under what circumstances, and with whom. 17 If there are differences, is this culturally related or rather individual?
Cross-cultural communication Germany and the United States have firm handshakes, with the German being very brief and the US being about three to four seconds France, Guatemala, and Japan have more limp handshakes Singapore has a longer handshake (10+ seconds) Women should be the first to offer a hand for a handshake in New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or Taiwan In South Korea, more respect is shown by cupping your left hand under your right forearm, as if supporting your right forearm during the hand shake A traditional bow may be used in China, Hong Kong, or Japan 18
Cross-cultural communication Traditional greeting in India is namaste - place the hands in a praying position, palms together with the fingers just beneath the chin, bow and say “namaste” Thailand: place, the hands, palms together, in front of the chin, bow the head to touch the top of the fingers, and say “wai” Women may greet other women by patting the right forearm or shoulder in Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, or Panama Countries with Hindu and Muslim religions forbid public contact between men and women. When in these countries, follow your host’s cue to determine if religious tradition will be followed. Women should wait for a man to offer his hand first in a Hindu or Muslim country, if a western handshake is going to be used 19
Cross-cultural communication Your self- image is reflected through your appearance Dress: appropriate for the occasion Grooming: hair, beard, make up, etc. Your personal appearance often creates an initial impression that sometimes is very difficult to change. Your personal appearance is of importance when you consider body language because it is an aspect over which you have considerable control. Although very little can be done about the shape, features and size of your body, much can be done about what you wear, how you wear it and the total picture of how you look. 20