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Nonverbals Across Cultures

Bennett Serchen

CA331: Intercultural Communication

Cheri Frey-Hartel

5 May 2017
Nonverbals Across Cultures 2


Throughout this analysis, I will describe the nonverbal behaviors of the largest ethnic

groups in the United States, then reflect on how these behaviors would be perceived to American

citizens, as well as connect these observations to course content. There are a few instances that I

will summarize two reports of the nonverbal characteristics of one country and discuss the

interpretation in a single reflection. The reason being that these articles will provide mostly the

same information with a few additional points, and it is important to include these articles to

have a thorough understanding of the nonverbal characteristics in these groups or nationalities.

In simple terms, nonverbal communication is the act of sending and receiving messages

in a variety of ways without the use of verbal codes (words). It is both intentional and

unintentional, and most speakers are not conscious of these actions. These behaviors include

things such as touch, eye contact, proximity, gestures, facial expression, dress, posture and word

choice. The importance of nonverbal communication serves multiple functions:

 Used to repeat the verbal message.

 Often used to accent a verbal message. For example, verbal tone indicates the actual

meaning of the specific words.

 Often complement the verbal message, but it might also contradict.

 Regulate interactions, such as nonverbal cues that convey when the other person should

speak or not speak.

Overall, these behaviors vary from culture to culture, so it is vital to understand how these

different cultures interact amongst one another. If there is a lack of knowledge or lack of

understanding, there is a chance for miscommunication and misinterpretation.

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For as long as I can remember, nonverbal communication is something that has always

intrigued me. Until my senior year of high school, I did not fully understand the meanings of the

behaviors of others. During that year, I took a Communication Arts class that taught me the

necessary skills to become more aware of the way that others perceive me, as well as the way

that I perceive others. After taking Body Language and Interpersonal Communication during the

first year of college, I had the desire to continue pursuing communication. I am not saying that I

judge other people based on their nonverbal behaviors, but I have been able to utilize these skills

to my advantage to communicate more effectively with others. It is a skill that can never stop

being improved, and it is a skill that varies greatly from culture to culture. Therefore, there is a

need to understand the nonverbal behaviors of different cultures so we can all become more

interculturally competent communicators.

Sawe, B. E. (2016, August 17). Largest Ethnic Groups and Nationalities in the United States.

Retrieved May 02, 2017, from http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/largest-ethnic-groups-



In this article, a data analyst, Benjamin Sawe reports the findings of U.S. Census Bureau

which illustrates the largest ethnic groups and nationalities in the United States. As Sawe

explains, the United States is a multi-racial and multi-ethnic country that officially categorizes its

population into six groups: Whites, African Americans, Native Americans/Alaskan Natives,

Pacific Islanders, Asians, and Native Hawaiians. Although the United States is split into these

populations, each group is composed of several ethnicities or nationalities. For example,

individuals that are German, English, Irish, Italian, Polish or French would be categorized as
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“white.” The figure below shows the percentages of the largest ethnic groups and nationalities in

the United States.

Rank Ethnicity or Nationality Share of Total Population

1 German 17.1%
2 African American 14.6%
3 English, Scottish, and/or Scotch Irish 12.6%
4 Irish 11.6%
5 Mexican 10.9%
6 American (native English speaking) 6.7%
7 Italian 5.9%
8 Polish 3.0%
9 French 2.9%
10 Native American, First Nations, or Alaskan Native 1.6%

Figure 1: Percentages of Ethnic Groups and Nationalities in the United States

Throughout the rest of the article, Sawe further explains the six populations and the

different groups that would be categorized in each population, as well as including influential

members of each group.


For the purposes of this analysis, I will focus on the highest percentages of the ethnic

groups and nationalities. As stated previous, this paper will analyze the nonverbal characteristics

of the largest ethnic groups in the United States so individuals will be able to better understand

how people of different cultures interact within our country. It is important to be aware of the

nonverbal behaviors of others since the majority of communication is nonverbal in nature.

Actions are not always parallel to words spoken. People interpret messages according how you

react, listen, or look at the time of communicating. When verbal and nonverbal signals do not

match, it creates distrust, unclear message, misunderstandings and confusion. The interpretation
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of nonverbal signals is not easy since it can differ from person to person and culture to culture, as

well as the fact that nonverbal communication does not have fixed meanings. Overall, it is

beneficial to properly notice and interpret these behaviors to more effectively communicate with

others. Therefore, it is wise to look at the nonverbal behaviors of other cultures, and compare

them to the behaviors that are expected in the United States, so we can accurately perceive the

message that an individual is attempting to send.

Werthmann, A. (2011, April 27). Concepts of the German Culture. Retrieved May 03, 2017,

from http://germanconcepts.blogspot.com/2011/04/nonverbal-behavior.html


As shown above, one of the largest nationalities in the United States is German.

Therefore, it would be wise to understand the nonverbal behaviors of this culture. Although I

have German ancestry and I am not a resident of this country, I realize that some of things that I

have been taught are reflective of the actions that are described in this article. In this beginning,

the author defines nonverbal behaviors as actions that include “gestures, facial expressions, eye

contact, gaze, posture, movement, touch, dress, silence, the use of space and time, objects,

artifacts and paralanguage.” These behaviors often communicate the same or more meaning than

the actual spoken words. In intercultural communication, inappropriate or misused nonverbal

behaviors can lead to misunderstandings and possibly insults. The author supports the claims that

“people engaging in intercultural communication should try to maintain a continual awareness of

how body behaviors may influence the interaction." Werthmann discusses key aspects of the

German culture such as mealtime customs, hand gestures, body language, and directness.
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Mealtime Customs:

 When eating out in Germany, it is polite to have both hands above the table at all times, and

elbows should not rest on the table. Additionally, it is considered impolite to leave food on a


 If you are dining in a busy restaurant and there are empty seats at your table, and no other

tables available, then the host may seat other people at your table. There is no obligation to

speak with the other people at your table, unless you feel inclined.

Hand Gestures:

 It is impolite to shake someone's hand with your other hand in your pocket. It is seen as a

sign of disrespect.

 If you are in a group situation, and wish to express your thanks, clasp your hands together

and raise them high above your head.

 If you are talking with someone, it is very rude to chew gum.

 To wave goodbye, raise your hand upward with your palm out and wave your fingers up and

down. Do not wave side to side because this would symbolize the idea of "NO".

Body Language:

 Germans value direct eye contact, particularly during face-to-face conversations. It is a sign

of honesty and interest in the discussion.

 Smiles are used with discretion, typically reserved for close friends and family. Germans do

not normally smile to express politeness as is common in the United States.

 Verbal communication in Germany tends to be clear and to the point. For example, when

Germans answer the phone, it is common to simply give their last names rather than a
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greeting such as "hello," which might be expected in the United States. This directness is

sometimes difficult for foreigners to understand and this short or blunt communication style

might be interpreted as an insult.

Overall, the communication style for Germans is mostly similar to the style in the United

States, but there are several differences that can cause issues if it is interpreted incorrectly.


As I stated in the summary, I have never lived or traveled to Germany; however, I realize

that I have very similar nonverbal behaviors to this nationality. It might be that I have German

ancestry, or that these behaviors are similar to the United States, but most of the findings

described above are things that I consider appropriate. While there are some things that are

specific to the region such as raising your hands above your head to express thanks or using

smiles with discretion, there are some things that I relate to. For example, Germans value direct

eye contact, particularly during face-to-face conversations, seeing it as a sign of honesty and

interest in the discussion. When I am speaking to someone from the United States, it is

frustrating when people do not make eye contact. Most of the time, people will be scrolling

through their phone or looking around the room like they are either trying to find a way out or

thinking of something else to do. To me it is a sign of disrespect and a lack of interest in the

conversation. Through this course, I have learned that I need to be more understanding of the

value of eye contact in different cultures, but overall, I expect that people should try to make eye

contact to show commitment and interest.

On the other hand, I understand that the lack of eye contact can be attributed to the

different values of power distance between cultures. For cultures with a low power distance, it is

seen that people are equal and there is a mutual respect for one another; therefore, it is acceptable
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to maintain eye contact. For cultures with a high power distance, people need to show respect to

those at a “higher standing,” so eye contact is avoided to demonstrate this respect. Even in a

culture like Germany that is very similar to the United States, it is important to understand the

nonverbal behaviors that are typical of the nationality. If I was in a group of people and a person

clasped their hands and raised them above their head without an explanation, I would have

thought that it was odd. However, I now understand that this is how people from Germany show

thanks while in a group of people.

Nonverbal Communication in Britain. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from http://www.expats-




The following article is from a website that reports the most common nonverbal

behaviors of a long list countries. As stated at the beginning of this analysis, there are a series of

short articles that I will summarize, then write a single reflection. The next two summaries will

pertain to the nationality for those from Britain.

 The handshake is the common form of greeting.

 There is guidelines when introducing people for the first time:

o Introduce a younger person to an older person.

o Introduce a person of lower status to a person of higher status.

o When two people are of similar age and rank, introduce the one you know better to

the other person.

 Hugging, kissing and touching is usually reserved for family members and very close friends.
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 Staring is considered rude, and makes people feel uncomfortable.

 If you hold up two fingers in a V-sign and the palm is facing inward it means “up yours.”

These are the common nonverbal behaviors that are needed when meeting people from Britain.

Business Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://businessculture.org/



Although the following article discusses the nonverbal behavior for the professional

setting in Britain, there are a number of these behaviors that people use outside of the workplace.

There is a warning at the beginning of the piece that states it is crucial to realize that these

observations are general behaviors and are subject to contextual and regional variations.

The first section addresses the style of face-to-face communication. A handshake is the

typical greeting for a new introduction, but it is not expected at subsequent meetings. When

beginning a conversation with someone, it is recommended to open the conversation with a

neutral topic, such as the weather or something about the immediate situation. Another difficulty

in verbal communication is that that English people tend to use understatements often. For

example, what might be described as “a bit expensive’” can really mean “very expensive,” and

“a little problem” can really mean “a big problem.” These expressions can cause confusion for

those that are unaware of this tendency.

A person should not be offended if addressed by a different term such as “love”, “pet”,

“duck”, “mate” or “darling” – these terms vary across the country. Overall, there is no deep or

hidden meaning. People in Britain usually address each other informally using their first names.

However, it is more appropriate to use surnames when meeting someone for the first time. For

example, Mr. (for men), Mrs. (for women) and Miss or Ms. (for unmarried women). If you
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would like to address a man without mentioning their name, use “Sir.” If you would like to

address a woman, use “Madam.”


As expected, the nonverbal communication styles are incredibly similar in Britain as it is

in the United States. It seems that most of the characteristics are quite similar besides a few

different nicknames and hand gestures. Unfortunately, it is difficult to reflect on this culture

since it is similar to our own country. It is understandable why England is the top study abroad

destinations that students chose since it is not too different than our own understanding of

culture. Personally, I would want to travel to a place that was different than my own to gain a

deeper understanding of myself. Even though it is not included in this analysis, I felt that I was

able to grow immensely when I traveled to Italy for the Franciscan Pilgrimage. I was in another

country that I did not speak the language, I did not understand the hand gestures, I did not

understand the beliefs, and I did not understand the layout of the city. I was truly in a new world.

The experience forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and learn more about myself, and

it allowed me to apply my skills of nonverbal communication to effectively communicate

without using words. It seems that I was doing a pretty good job fitting in since a handful of

people tried speaking to me in Italian. While it would be a tremendous experience to travel to

Britain to experience the culture, it would be a difficult place to grow as an individual since it is

similar to our own culture in the United States.

Nonverbals Across Cultures 11

A Look at Irish Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from



The fourth largest nationality in the United States is Ireland. The following article

provides information about the languages, culture, customs and etiquette of the Irish people, and

it is relevant to note some of the values and beliefs to have a greater understanding of the culture.

Most people in the country are Roman Catholic, and until the early 1990s, the church had a

strong voice in society as well as politics. Although the role of the church has diminished,

religion still plays a big part of society’s view of family, marriage, and abortion.

The Irish have a reputation for their wit and humor – which is called having “the craic”

(pronounced crack). It is common for the Irish to trade insults and tease one another with close

friends. If you are teased, it is important to take it well and not see it as personal.

Meeting Etiquette:

 The basic greeting is a handshake and a hello or salutation appropriate for the time of day.

 Eye contact signifies trust and it is maintained during a greeting.

 If giving flowers, do not give lilies as they are used at religious festivities. Do not give white

flowers as they are used at funerals.

 Be on time if you are invited to an Irish home (chances are food has been cooked and being

late could spoil it)

 Table manners are relatively relaxed and informal.

Communication Style:

The way that a person speaks will say a lot about a person in Ireland. The Irish have

turned speaking into an art form due to their tendency to be lyrical and poetic. The Irish
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appreciate modesty and dislike a superiority complex of any sort. There is an overall cultural

tendency for people to view politeness as more important than telling the absolute truth.

Additionally, it is vital to listen closely in conversation because there might be things that are

implied beyond what is actually being said. For example, if someone becomes silent before

agreeing, they have probably said “no.” Generally speaking, the Irish do not like confrontation

and prefer to avoid conflict, which they attempt to avoid by using humor and showing good



While the Irish culture is also similar to the United States, there are some differences to

note. One of the key differences it that the Irish do not like confrontation and prefer to avoid

conflict, which is different from what we experience. The stereotype in the United States is that

the people are extremely confrontational. We are not afraid to say what is on our mind and we

will argue and argue some more to prove that our opinion is the right one. While there is a good

amount of the population that tries to avoid confrontation, it is not the norm. However, I do feel

that there has been a shift over the past few years due to political correctness. As I have stated in

previous course reflections, it is difficult to express your thoughts or opinions in today’s society

without being called a racist, sexist, or privileged. In addition to that, I do not think that people in

the United States would not appreciate the humor that comes along with the Irish communication

style. As stated above, it is common for the Irish to trade insults and tease one another with close

friends. If you are teased, it is important to take it well and not see it as personal. Although I

have a similar communication style where I joke around with close friends, I cannot act this way

towards everyone since others will take it personally. It is difficult to joke around with others

without thinking that there is an underlying malicious intent.

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Overall, I did not discover any major differences between Ireland and the United States,

besides a few key differences in the communication styles. Most of the mannerisms and style of

greetings are similar, which makes sense since the last few nationalities described (Germany,

Britain and Ireland) make up a large portion of the population in the United States.

Dunker, E. (2012, October 23). Nonverbal Communication in Mexico. Retrieved May 03, 2017,

from https://ericadunker.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/nonverbal-communication-in-



In this article, Dunker reports the key nonverbal behaviors that are typical in the Mexican


 In Mexican culture, a man will shake another man’s hand as a greeting or farewell as a sign

of respect; however, a man will wait for a woman to offer her hand to him, he will not offer

his first.

 Many women greet other women by kissing them on the cheek or touching their arm or


 When people of the Mexican culture are engaging in a conversation, they will talk at a close

distance. If you take a step back from someone, it can be taken as unfriendly. Additionally, it

is considered insulting if you withdraw from someone that tries touching your arm or


 If a man is making direct eye contact with another man it is considered to be aggressive, and

if a woman makes direct eye contact with a man (or vice versa), it is considered as flirting.
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 In Mexico, time is very flexible and lateness is accepted and a normal occurrence. Usually a

time frame will be given, but they will not give an exact time.

Spanish Culture and Nonverbal Communication. (2017). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from



As the article points out, the Spanish culture can differ greatly from other cultures. It is

more enjoyable to travel in different countries if you understand the culture of the place you want

to visit. For this purpose, the authors compiled helpful tips about Latin America that will help

understand the nonverbal characteristics of the Spanish world.

Nonverbal Communication in Latin America:

 In Latin American, it is considered impolite to toss things to each other. If you need to give

something to a native, make sure you walk over and hand it to them.

 Do not be offended when Latins call you a "gringo." To them, the words simply describes

someone as foreign and it is not meant to be degrading. The word originated from the times of

war when American soldiers wore green uniforms. The Mexicans knew enough to say "Green,

go!" to express their wishes for the American soldiers to leave. Eventually, the term became

“gringo” and is used for any stranger, especially if you have light hair and eyes.

 Latin Americans will usually greet friends and relatives more personally than do Americans.

Men usually greet woman with "besitos," which means the touching of cheeks while making a

kissing noise with their lips. These little kisses are purely friendly and have no romantic

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 The hand gesture in the United States for "come here," which the hand is palm up with the index

finger is extending in and out, has a different meaning in Latin America. It means that you are

very romantically interested in the person and it is considered a solicitation.

 To motion to someone in Latin America "come here" extend your hand palm down and move all

four fingers in and out together three or four times.


According to the largest ethnic groups and nationalities in Figure 1, Mexico is number 5.

The country has an incredibly rich culture that is quite different from the United States and it

shows in the nonverbal styles. For example, people will greet one another with “besitos” on the

cheek, which would be odd for people in the United States. Although my family will typically

hug one another as we leave, it would be strange if we gave two kisses on the cheek when we

greeted one another or said goodbye. One of the most notable differences between Mexico and

the United States is the concept of time. While the United States has a monochronic sense of

time, which means that schedules and deadlines are implemented, Mexico has a polychronic

sense of time, which means that time is not valued. It is widely known that Mexico follows

polychonic time that it has the name “Mexican-time.” Even for people that live in the United

States, but have Mexican family, follow this value of time. For example, Rico usually follows

polychronic time. Just the other night, Cardinal Stritch organized the Leadership Dinner to

recognize graduating students and campus leaders for a dinner celebration and the check-in time

was between 5:00-5:30pm. We had planned to eat together, so I arrived at 5:15pm to save some

seats. Around 5:40pm, Rico came late to the dinner and I was not able to hold onto the seat

because other people were on time. Obviously I was frustrated because I showed up early to save

seats, but it boils down to the concept of time. I grew up with a family that has always followed
Nonverbals Across Cultures 16

monochronic time and I was taught that it is important to be on-time, whereas Rico grew up with

a family that followed polychronic time. It does not mean that one is better than the other, but it

worth realizing that these differences can cause issues. As I have stated a handful of times, it is

important to be aware of these cultural differences if we are to be more competent intercultural


Hampton, R. (2013, February 4). Nonverbal Communication Differences between USA and

France. Retrieved May 03, 2017, from https://rhampton23.wordpress.com/



While it is one of the lower rankings in the top 10, there is a number of students that

attend Stritch that reside in France. Due to this, I feel that it is significant to include this culture

in the analysis. Throughout this article, the author reports the differences in the nonverbal

behaviors between France and the United States. If a person travels abroad for business or

pleasure, they will want to ensure that they are not offending people that they will meet. Below is

a chart that shows different interpretations of nonverbal communications between USA and


Nonverbal Gesture France USA

“Okay” Sign with Hand Means “Worthless” or “Zero” Means perfect or okay
This sign is perfectly acceptable
when used to tell someone that
something is good.
Greeting The French often greet close friends and Greeting someone with a hand shake
family with kisses on both cheeks, but do whether it is a family member or a
not do this in the business world. business partner is acceptable.
Nonverbals Across Cultures 17

The Handshake The French shake hands upon meeting In the USA people great one
someone for the first time, particularly in another with a bold, strong
the business world. The handshake is gripped hand shake.
quick and light – no pumping up and
down or strong grips.
“Bicep Flex” Motion This motion is the equivalent of holding Flexing the bicep or simply
up your middle finger. Hold your arm out showing of your muscles.
with your hand in a fist, then smack your
other hand onto it the crevice of the
elbow. The action is also known as “le
bras d’honneur”
Facial Expressions The French are very reserved, which is People generally express
often interpreted as being rude. The their feelings and emotions with
French do not smile frequently because the use of facial expressions. One
they feel it is necessary only to smile can usually tell if a person has
when there is something to smile about. angry, sad or happy.
Therefore, they do not just smile as they
are walking down the street as Americans
do, which is often interpreted as rude.

Figure 2: Nonverbal Communication Differences between France and the United States

The author notes that without being properly informed, it is possible to offend someone

when traveling abroad with the simplest hand gestures. In France, many gestures that might be

offensive in France could be a compliment in the United States, which could cause problems

with interpersonal communications as soon as you meet someone. If you do not greet a person

that aligns with the accepted customs of the country, it could lead to awkwardness and a bad first

Nonverbals Across Cultures 18


As stated before, there are a number of students that attend Stritch that reside in France,

so I felt it was relevant to include in this analysis. One of the big differences that I have observed

is that the French do not smile frequently. There have been a few times that I have walked passed

some of the French students in the hallways and I will get a slight wave, but there is no smile

accompanied with the greeting. Additionally, my girlfriend’s mother studied abroad in France

when she was in college and the host family has come to visit a few times since I have known

Sara. When we first met, I was initially met with a handshake, which I expected; however, I did

not get many smiles during the week, so I thought that I had made a negative impression. When

the host family was leaving, I got two kisses on the cheek which is usually used for close friends

and family. Sara’s mother told me that they did like me and thought I was a great kid, but I did

not get that impression because they did not smile often or interact with me. Now, I realize that it

was not that they did not like me, but it was part of their nonverbal communication style. With

this new knowledge of France, I will be able to communicate better with the host family by

understanding the nonverbal characteristics that are typical in their country.

Leese, C. (2013, February 5). Nonverbal Communication of India vs. United States. Retrieved

May 02, 2017, from https://caseyleese.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/NONVERBAL-



Although India is not one of the top countries listed in Figure 1, it is relevant to include

since a large amount of technology specialists are from India, as well as the country being on the

other side of the world. Throughout this article, journalist Casey Leese discusses the nonverbal
Nonverbals Across Cultures 19

behaviors of the people of India. The interest initially started when her mother traveled to India

three years before and she talked about the experiences that she had, such as that the people have

respect for everyone, even people they do not know. However, the second that another person

does something to offend them is when they will lose all respect they had for you, and it is

incredibly difficult to gain that respect back. Before Leese discusses the nonverbal behaviors, she

explains the reasons that she is qualified to make these statements. She has not only completed

extensive research, but also has first-hand experience and observation after hearing the stories of

her mother and traveling to India herself. Below are the main and most important comparisons of

India and the United States that anyone should take into consideration before traveling there.


 Never touch anyone’s head in India, since it is considered the “seat of the soul” and it is very


 A head shake means yes while a head nod means no (mostly southern India).

 Starring is not considered offensive and a sign of “natural curiosity.”

 Avoid use of the left hand. It is considered the “unclean” hand. Also accepting items and

eating with the left hand is considered offensive.

 Use a bow with hands together to greet someone.

 Waving is the sign of “go away” instead of “hello.”

 To call someone with your hand, your palm must be facing downward toward the ground.

 There is a “one arm length” rule when communicating.

 Pointing is very frowned upon and considered a very rude gesture.

 Pointing your feet or showing the bottom of your feet is offensive since the feet are also

considered like the left hand – unclean.

Nonverbals Across Cultures 20

United States:

 A head pat or head touch is an affectionate way of saying “well done” or “good job.”

 A head nod means “yes” and a head shake means “no”.

 Starring is considered rude in the USA, and very frowned upon.

 The use of any hand is acceptable, depending on your preferable hand.

 Hand shake or any sentimental touching is acceptable (ex- handshake, hug, kissing) Waving is

a polite way to say hello from a distance.

 Palm can be facing up to call someone.

 The Americans have a one arm length along with the Indian culture.

 In America, pointing is also a very rude gesture and could initiate confrontation.

 There is no real communication regarding feet in America.

In her conclusion, Leese explains that there are many ways to offend people when

communicating with the Indian Culture. It is imperative to educate oneself on the culture since it

will beneficial to understand the communication style and avoid showing disrespect. When doing

business or just simply greeting an Indian person, the last thing you want to happen is offend

them or their culture. Lastly, knowing there are different ways of communicating between

cultures will have a positive outcome from a business aspect and also a social aspect.


As I have stated seventeen other times in this analysis, we need to understand the

nonverbal behaviors of other countries. Even in countries that are on the other side of the world

and we do not have many interactions with, there are possibilities for intentions to be

misinterpreted. On a quick side note, I had the opportunity to speak with my physics professor

that is from India and she acknowledged that most of the nonverbal behaviors described in the
Nonverbals Across Cultures 21

article were true. However, she said that some of the behaviors were regional, which make sense

since India is such a large country. Also, my girlfriend traveled to India this past December to

January and there have been several times that I was scolded for doing something that was

considered disrespectful in India. After reading about these nonverbal cues in India, I understand

that some of the things that we do in the United States would be considered offensive in other

parts of the world, so I have tried to be more cognizant of that.

Unfortunately, we have not had an in depth discussion about the nonverbal characteristics

of other cultures. Although we have touched upon it in some class activities, we have not had in

depth conversations about the behaviors of other ethnic groups and ethnicities. One of the most

impactful experiences that we had this semester that introduced the nonverbal interpretations was

in the Rockets and Sparklers activity. Through this, we were able to take on the roles of another

culture that behaved a certain way. For example, the Rockets were very mellow and did not

flaunt their wealth. It was a culture that valued relationships over material wealth and the

nonverbal communication displayed this. There was a number of times that the Sparklers

attempted to trade with members of the Rockets and were completely ignored, which eventually

lead to the two groups being isolated once again at the end of activity. As an outsider and a

person that is absolutely fascinated by nonverbals, it was amazing to witness the two groups

interact with one another. There were clear differences between the groups, and even though the

people did not see it themselves, it was quite evident. Through this activity, we were able to

understand how the different nonverbal behaviors can be perceived by people of another culture.

On another note, it is necessary to point out that there are clear opposites in the behaviors

between both the United States and India. For example, a head shake means “yes” while a head

nod means “no” in India, while a head nod means “yes” and a head shake means “no” in the
Nonverbals Across Cultures 22

United States. Even in this small instance, it is clear how these two actions can be misinterpreted

if a person from India is interacting with someone from the United States. Throughout these

interactions, a person needs to be mindful of these behaviors to become more interculturally


Final Reflection on Project:

Through extensive research and increased intercultural interactions, I will be able to more

effectively communicate with people from other cultures. Completing this project has been a

tremendous opportunity to learn more about the different ethnic groups and nationalities that I

would likely interact with in the United States. Since our country is referred to as the “Melting

Pot,” there is a blend of a large amount of cultures that have different values and beliefs. It is

imperative to understand the nonverbal characteristics of these groups to effectively

communicate with one another. Additionally, it will allow these people to feel comfortable

interacting with those that understand the actions. If we remained oblivious to these styles of

nonverbal communication, we could interpret certain behaviors as rude and disrespectful, even

though it is a sign of respect in one’s own culture. I hope that this analysis will help teach others

about the nonverbal behaviors of other cultures so we can be more accepting and understanding

of one another.

One day, I would love to apply these lessons by traveling to the countries listed and

interacting with these residents. Even if I do not speak the native language, I feel that I would be

able to travel without any issues if I am able to understand and comprehend the nonverbal signals

that others are sending. There is so much information that is communicated when words are not

used, and it is necessary to be knowledgeable on how to read these signals.

Nonverbals Across Cultures 23

Reflection on Franciscan Values:

With an extensive knowledge of nonverbal behaviors, individuals can apply these lessons

to demonstrate the Franciscan values. As I studied nonverbal communication of other cultures, I

was able to identify several instances where my findings either accepts or refutes the Franciscan

value. One value that is accepted is showing compassion. As defined, compassion is the feeling

of sympathy and sorrow for another. Based on this definition, if an individual felt sympathy for

another person, it could motivate him/her to protect the feelings of another. After thorough

research, I understand that some of the concepts can be utilized to achieve this goal to protect the

feelings of another individual.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable to make snap judgments of others. As we have grown up, it

was constantly implemented into our minds that if we do not have anything nice to say, then we

are not to say anything at all. With a greater understanding of the characteristics of other

cultures, we can be aware of our snap judgments and train them. Rather than assuming that a

German is rude and blunt, we can take a step back and realize that this group tends to have a

direct style of language. While the idea of controlling our snap judgments is not a direct example

of compassion, the ability to change how we analyze individuals to suppress any negative

judgment can be used to protect the feelings of another individual.

In our society today, we are constantly judged based on looks, clothing, skin color, etc.

Sadly, this prejudice will always be around, but an understanding of cultures nonverbal

communication helps control our judgments so we do not discriminate. By understanding our

snap judgments, we can learn to train them and be aware that our judgments are not always

correct. I can speak for myself when I say that I know that snap judgments are not always

correct. I have been on the other side where I make judgments of others which turn out to be
Nonverbals Across Cultures 24

incorrect. There have been a number of times that I speak with people from another country that

do not make eye contact while speaking, and I assumed that it was a sign of disrespect and

insincerity, when in fact it was a sign of respect to avoid eye contact. However, I made a snap

judgment that these people were rude and inconsiderate, rather than understanding that we have

different teachings of appropriate communication. Through the concepts learned in this analysis,

we can learn to the findings and learn to control our judgments of other cultures or groups.

Aside from showing compassion, the findings indirectly addresses the Franciscan value

of making peace. In the time of Francis, he was born into wealth and he grew up with the

materialistic privileges associated with it. As he grew up, Francis felt that there was more to the

life he was given. After a time, it became clear that Francis was to live his life as one of God’s

“poor ones” – those who have been alienated, oppressed, and helpless. One day while riding

through the countryside, Francis came face to face with a leper. Although he was repelled by the

appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis kissed the hand of the leper. When his kiss of

peace was returned, Francis was filled with joy. This story of Francis and the leper can be

compared to the accepting those that are different than us. An understanding of the nonverbal

behaviors of other ethnic groups or nationalities will help us accept others, much like Francis

accepted the leper. While these examples are not a directly associated with the Franciscan values,

we are able to connect these concepts to values found in the Franciscan tradition.