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World without words The cross-cultural context of gestures in international business communication

Jasmijn Camping, Emilio Bamio Ares, Sander Schroevers, Anke de Vries, Santhuruu Nadesapillai, Stef Lauer (Eds.)

World without words The cross-cultural context of gestures in international business communication

ISBN: 978-90-79646-11-1 NUR: 812 First edition 2012 Final editors: Emilio Bamio Ares, Jasmijn Camping Graphic manager: Stef Lauer Publication manager: Santhuruu Nadesapillai Series editor: Sander Schroevers Inner design: Stef Lauer, Jaguar Print, www.jaguarprint.nl Cover design: Stef Lauer, Jaguar Print, www.jaguarprint.nl Cover photo: Mats van Soolingen, matsvansoolingen@gmail.com Cover illustration: Diego Bervejillo Copyright Š the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, 2012 Text copyright Š the respective authors, 2012 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a database or retrieval system, or published in any form or in any way, electronically, mechanically, by print, photo copy, scan or any other means without prior written permission from the editor: s.schroevers@hva.nl In so far as the making of copies from this edition is allowed on the basis of Article 16h-16m of the Auteurswet 1912 jo., the Decree of the 27th of November 2002, Bulletin of Acts and Decrees 575, the legally due compensation should be paid to Stichting Reprorecht (P.O. Box 3060, 2130 KB Hoofddorp, The Netherlands). For the inclusion of excerpts from this edition in a collection, reader and other collections of works (Art. 16 of the Copyright Act 1912) please refer to the editor. The greatest care has been taken in compiling this book. However, no responsibility can be accepted by the respective authors, the editorial board or the Hogeschool van Amsterdam for the accuracy of the information presented. All material has been scanned on plagiarism on Ephorus beforehand, any inadvertent omissions can be rectified in future editions. In the preparation of this book every effort was made to avoid the use of actual company names or trade names. If any has been used inadvertently, the editor will change it in any future reprint if they are notified. Where opinion is expressed, it is that of individual authors and does not necessarily coincide with the views of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library, the Library of Congress and the Netherlands Deposit Collection of the royal library in The Hague. Books from this series are available at the StudyStore bookshops on the Leeuwenburg, Wenckebachweg and Fraijlemaborg campuses, or through online booksellers like www.amazon.com.

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Table of Contents Acknowledgements ..................................9 INTRODUCTION Gestures, the world-at-hand ..................12 What is a gesture? ...........................12 Finger-talk ........................................13 YES and NO signals .........................14 Looking in the rear-view mirror .....15 Interview with professor Maheux .........17 Non-verbal Communication ...................22 Written non-verbal communication ..23 Oral non-verbal communication.....23 Body language .................................24 Posture and body movement and orientation .......................................24 Facial expressions.............................25 Proxemics .........................................25 Gestures............................................26 Cross-cultural communication................27 Culture..............................................27 Variables ...........................................29 Countries ..........................................30 Contact and contract-oriented cultures .............................................31 Trends ...............................................31 Gestures ...................................................33 Introduction .....................................33 Gesture History ...............................33 Categories of gestures.....................35 GESTURES Nodding and shaking the head .............40 Eyelid pull ................................................42 Wink .........................................................44 Eyebrow Flash .........................................46 The Hand Purse .......................................48 Finger to forehead ..................................50 Okay Sign ................................................52 Beckoning gesture ..................................54

Waving.....................................................56 Closed/Crossed arms...............................58 Peace sign ................................................60 Handshake ...............................................62 Hugs .........................................................64 Kisses .......................................................66 Size measurements .................................68 Eye contact/staring/watching ................70 COUNTRIES Argentina.................................................74 Austria .....................................................76 Chile .........................................................77 Denmark ..................................................79 France.......................................................82 Germany ..................................................84 Greece ......................................................87 Hong Kong ..............................................90 India .........................................................91 Indonesia .................................................93 Italy ..........................................................94 Japan ........................................................98 Malaysia.................................................101 Mexico ...................................................102 The Netherlands ....................................104 Nigeria ...................................................106 Philippines .............................................108 Poland ....................................................109 Russia .....................................................112 South Korea...........................................114 Spain ......................................................116 Sudan .....................................................117 Thailand .................................................118 Turkey ....................................................119 United States .........................................121 Index ......................................................124 Bibliography ..........................................126

Picture credits ....................................133 7

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Acknowledgements In this book, students of the elective course Cross-cultural Business Skills at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, offer a study of gestures understood as cultural practices. Their participation to the growing body of research about the meanings of various gestures across cultures is a useful one, in an ever globalising world. I was inspired by the editorial processes, in which good people with their positive energy were able to research, write, photograph, layout and organise this publication within mere weeks. I would like to thank all the individual co-authors for their thoughtful research and writing and their constructive comments regarding this first edition of ‘World without words’. And I know this publication would not exist without the helpful work of the editorial board, I particularly would like to thank Emilio Bamio Ares, Jasmijn Camping, Stef Lauer, Santhuruu Nadesapillai and Anke de Vries for their wonderful management for the preparation of this manuscript. I appreciated the professionalism of Zilla Meekel, Ekaterina Trofimova, Kai Groefsma, Valerie Heijnen and Steffan Amende. But of course no book is the sole domain of authors and editors, as other people contributed to this edition, I would like to acknowledge and thank them as well; I begin by thanking my programme manager, Mrs. Hans Seubring-Vierveyzer for her support another semester. I also want to acknowledge the professional and altruistic support provided by photographers and designers Mats van Soolingen, Nick Hoekzema, Robin Wilm and Miria Regina Goiana Costa - Martens. Further my special thanks to Beth Bedinotti and Paul Mossman for their native English editing. Then I want to acknowledge Rosanne Smit’s and Loes Tiemes’ additional work on research and writing outside the scope of their initial assignment, ultimately contributing additional valuable information to the content of this book. I am equally indebted to Niek Kuijper, Shaam Nathe, Fouad Sout, Marta Bankowska, Jeroen van der Poel, and Stefan van Alphen for their fine work on the external communication of this book. And last but absolutely not least thanks to Yentl Snoek, Maggy Tuyp, Martine de Best, Roy Blokker and Felix Prummel for organising the book presentation. My gratitude is due to all those who have not been mentioned on this small page and also have assisted in the preparation of this first edition of World without Words. Finally, on behalf of the editorial team, I take responsibility for any errors that may have inadvertently found their way into this book. Sander Schroevers 9

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Gestures, the world-at-hand Sander Schroevers

According to psychologists and anthropologists, non-verbal communication plays an ever-bigger role in situations where we are emotional, up to ninety percent even. This is probably one of the reasons why experienced business people may find it hard to communicate effectively with foreign counterparts, even though both parties posses a fair amount of knowledge of a common language (e.g. English). Implicit communication apparently influences our thinking patterns to a larger extend than we seem to realise. Gestures are closely linked to cultural practices, as products of tradition, not biology. Gestures may seem like rituals within a certain culture, symbols of which only a shared knowledge allows sense-making, thus reducing the risk of misinterpretation. Because how people understand a gesture, largely depends on where they are in the world. I would like to illustrate this with a simple anecdote. As a speaker at a conference on international communication in Tehran, I was crossing a (small) road. And honesty makes me admit that the pedestrian traffic light might have already changed its green colour, but being late as I was, conscience can be very forgiving at such moments. That road however seemed a lot less small by the time the traffic actually started to move. I quickly established eye contact with the drivers in order to let me pass safely. Their true gentlemen reactions gave me a feeling of passing through the Red Sea, and out of gratitude I gave them the thumbs-up, indicating my positive evaluation. The very moment I did, I realised my faux-pas. The thumbs-up gesture in Iran, traditionally an obscene gesture, is the equivalent to the use of the middle finger in Western cultures. Within seconds the gentlemen drivers in that Red Sea turned into pursuing Egyptians with their chariot-wheels, making me run for my life and my lecture (which I certainly made on time now). Conclusion: gestures matter. It was the French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who once wrote that “the hand was a vehicle for being in the world�. But how MerleauPonty’s vehicle will be understood in the world, very much depends on culture. Speakers can make use of a whole repertoire of schematic actions of the hand, representing conceptual metaphors or simpler said: meaning. And in the same way different cultures developed their own language, so did the hand-forms, say gestures. 12

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What is a gesture? Gestures are in fact elusive phenomena; they leave no traces and last for a fraction of a second. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a gesture as: “A significant movement of limb or body’ or ‘use of such movements as expression of feeling or rhetorical device’.”. This definition includes any facial expression or bodily movement that transmits messages, also referring to symptomatically expressed feelings like blushes or pain grimaces. In the broad sense, a ‘gesture’ can refer to any wilful bodily movement, and although the focus in this volume mainly is on hands gestures, also proactive displays like body posture, head-gestures or eyecontact will be described where relevant in this publication. We studied gestures as a set of culture specific non-spoken practices that produce socio-cultural situated understandings (Erickson 2004). Simply because nuance can play a substantial role in understanding the meaning of a movement. An example: nodding your head to indicate ‘yes’ is not as simple as it may seem. The table below lists some varieties of ‘yes’; Variety

Meaning of ‘YES’


‘Yes, I am listening.’


‘Yes, I will.’


‘Yes, that is right.’


‘Yes, how wonderful.’


‘Yes, I see what you mean.’

Finger-talk After having stated what a “gesture” is earlier in this publication, let me also say that (except for in this chapter) mere erotic and obscene gestures have been excluded. Not so much out of shame but simply because their relevant use in business communications can be seen as naturally limited.



Nevertheless, do allow me to share two more faux-pas, besides the mentioned obscene and erotic vertically extended thumb with curled fingers. The picture in the middle has caused former U.S. President, George Bush Sr., some ‘V’ sign confusion, when he visited Australia in 1992. Meaning to signify ‘Victory’ to a group of protesting farmers in Canberra who showed their discontent with the U.S. farm subsidies, he instead told them to f*** off. Pictures of his gesture made it to most of the front pages down-under. A Dutch producer of round croquettes, showing a classic culinary chef forming a ring or circle with the thumb and forefinger, used the third picture on the packaging. The only problem with this particular gesture is that it is understood as ‘nulle’ or ‘zéro’ in France, the companies wished for export market. But still the French market would be a lot less disastrous than for instance the Brazilian market, where the sign refers to the posterior opening of the alimentary canal… Now situations like above offer us funny anecdotes, but they are also a warning of the ambiguity that so-called multi-message gestures constitute. Although disaster signs like the three above are comparatively rare, still large numbers of signs have more than one basic message, because cultures have developed their own repertoire of visual signals.

YES and NO signals Those of us with international experience know only too well that simple words like ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are not expressed universally at all. Certain cultures have no hesitation to disagree whereas others will avoid a direct ‘no’ at all cost, as in the wonderful reply I once got when I asked if someone was selling certain fruits: “Yes, we do not sell bananas”. In addition, the fact that Japanese colleagues claim that their language does not have a suitable word for ‘no’ (despite the existence of the word ‘IE’, which I remember from my own Japanese vocabulary drills), and that Bahasa Indonesia is supposed to have seven different shades of ‘no’, examplify all too well how complicated (dis)agreeing across cultures may be. Let alone to do so with a gesture, since the South-East Asian experiential frames in terms of which communicative gestures are made meaningful, simply differ too much with the Western European ones. Exploring websites like YouTube with sample country names and gesture keywords will prove this within minutes. 14

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But let us shortly move back to Tehran, where (just like in parts of Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria or even the Balkan) more contra posing differences appear. For instance the movement of the head which I normally would understand as a ‘yes’ nodding, in Iran actually means the exact opposite: ‘no’. Often with a small tongue sound accompanying an upward nod. In fact many people from Turkish decent, brought up in North-Western Europe might use this gesture to disagree. To make things even more complicated, when indicating ‘yes’ in the aforementioned areas, people often tilt their heads rhythmically from side to side. A movement that probably would be understood as ‘Maybe yes, maybe no’ in NorthWestern Europe, but here is meant as an affirmative ‘yes’. And indeed the Bulgarian language shows some prove of that, in proverbs such as: “I offer you my ear”. Gestures differ in the degree of conventionality of their forms and functions. The table below reveals us that gesture nuance can be geographically influenced,

YES/NO signals





The Netherlands

and its relative meaning subjective:

YES tilting head from side to side






NO nodding head upwardly






YES nodding head downwardly






NO shaking head from side to side






Table: research on yes-no signals in Turkey, Iran, Bulgaria, Greece and The Netherlands.

Looking in the rear-view mirror There is nothing new about the study of gestures. Already Roman writer Quintilian described gestures and since the Renaissance attempts have been made by physiognomists to codify facial expressions, sometimes also including descriptions of ‘national character’. It was Charles Darwin, who believed to have discovered that physical expressions were biologically inherited (…). And it is true that certain very basic emotions like laughing or crying surpass linguistic and national boundaries. 15


But reading some paragraphs of Erasmus’s ‘De civilitate morum puerilium’ (Groot ceremonie-boeck der beschaafde zeeden) can make me wonder how it was ever possible that his name became connected to the movement of over two million European students with the Erasmus programme, as Erasmus condemned the Italians as uncivil because they ‘speak with their head, arms, feet and the whole body’. Today, gesture studies are carried out by numerous scholars across many disciplines. The Amsterdam based publishing house John Benjamins, offers a journal called Gesture, which was founded by a.o. gesture-icon Adam Kendon and additionally there is the Berlin founded International Society for Gesture Studies.

Gestures primarily take place during face-to-face conversations and therefore will be co-occurring with spoken language. Streeck mentions that research in a large variety of areas, from child development, to neuropsychology, to linguistics and anthropology, has shown the intimate link between oral production, gestural production, and thought. Finding after finding has shown that gestures are often produced in astonishing synchronicity with speech, that they develop in close relation with speech and that brain injuries affecting speech production also affect gesture production. But this linguistic context still does not solve the communication puzzle, as it does not explain how we see - what we see. Because like all other languages, the language of gesture can separate as well as unite. It is therefore so relevant that this diverse, richly textured practice of cross-cultural gesture, becomes less uncharted and unexplained through this research performed by students. In this introductory chapter you became acquainted with ideas and examples in the field of gesturing. In the chapters of this book different authors will explain specific communication habits and local value differences per country. Along with this introduction, the following chapters will form the stage-setting part of this book, offering essential conceptual distinctions. The subsequent chapters sketch practice genres of gesture, after which (typical) gesture meanings of individual countries are being described. Most communicative modalities have been made accessible through a keyword index in the end of this book. 16

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Interview with professor Maheux Marieke van Meerten

Below is an edited interview by Marieke van Meerten with professor Jean François Maheux from the Université du Québec à Montréal, partly on his contribution to the multidisciplinary research group Chat@Uvic at the University of Victoria, Canada. Where does you interest in ‘gestures’ originate from? “My interest in gestures stems from my education work in epistemology: an inquiry the nature of knowledge and what it means to know. I realised that knowing is not simply something “in the head”, or in books and organizations. It runs across the whole body, it can be recognised in every action, and it inherently involves the contact with another (who can be oneself, as Paul Ricoeur powerfully puts it) and the foreign. Gestures, including all body movements and positions, such as directions of the gaze, and even intonations, are then ways of knowing. They realise one’s way into the world, one’s orientation towards the other, and they are occasions to reach out, and meet”. In your professional opinion, which country or culture uses gestures most frequently? “I think we want to interest ourselves in “gestures” in the broadest meaning we can give to the word. Etymologically, “gesture” comes from the Latin “gestus” which not only refers to movement of a body part, but also to posture, behaviour, and even the bearing, the carriage of something, including the body itself. When you think of it in that way, you realise there cannot be a country or a culture that gesticulates more or less than another. Gesturing is an integral part of communication, of being human. In addition, it is fundamental to remind ourselves that gestures are also completely contextual. Raising you hand, closing an eye or getting on your knees might or might not be understood as “wanting to ask a question”, “winking” or “showing submission” depending on where and when it is done, in whose presence, and in response to what. It is only when you set yourself to a very strict definition of “gesture”, one that is not open and flexible as gesture themselves (a wink can easily be turned into an “I have something in my eye!”) that one might be able to say: these people gestures more, there is more gestures in that context, etc. But in my view, by doing this we miss the point. What really matters to me in terms of gestures is, on the contrary, to open 17


ourselves to be increasingly sensitive to them, nuanced, flexible and responsive. I prefer then to start from the very opposite premise: all people gestures all the time!” Can you indicate which gesture is most likely to be used wrongfully in crosscultural (business) setting? “This is a very important question, because it reveals another general attitude towards gestures that is not, in my view, very fruitful. When you look at gestures from a “grammatical” perspective, you want to attribute specific, predefined, almost definitive meaning to gestures. You could then imagine writing a dictionary and offer it as a standard, just as we do with words. Doing this naturally involves the documentation of gestures as people actually use them in everyday life, but also the normalisation of those observations and, in the end, the constitution of a small group of experts deciding on official meaning, on what is right or wrong. Although it is quite likely that someone will, sooner or later, come up with such a book, I believe this will only take us farther away from this openness to/of another’s gesturing I was evoking. There is no “wrong” way to use or to make a gesture, especially not from the perspective of the person gesturing. On the other hand, there is of course very different ways of interpreting a given gesture. Of course, with some contextual elements, some interpretations are more likely to take place within a given culture. A well-known example is the “OK” sign (done by touching the tips of your thumb and forefinger in to a circle and holding the other fingers straight), which is used as a vulgar expression in Brazil, or symbolize Buddhist teaching in Eastern Asia, and so on. But you can always walk into a Buddhist school in Brazil or step on a Brazilian’s toes in China… What makes a difference is not to learn the “meaning” of all or most common gestures, so to use and interpret them correctly. Rather, key to me is cultivating one’s attention to gestures, to our own and those of others, and to the other’s response to gestures or their interpretation. Of course, learning about gestures and their possible meaning can be an excellent way to raise one’s awareness. But only if it is part of an opening, enriching attitude.”


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What do you suggest International Business students and practitioners when using gestures in business context? “Attentiveness to the other(s) in one element. Attentiveness to yourself is another. Maintaining an opened attitude comes with this. These are most not “tips” in the sense of easily usable hints to achieve something: quite the opposite. Allow me to insist on this: drawing on tips can easily contribute to close upon oneself, impose one’s ways of doing or understanding, and in the end miss the encounter with the other. When I study gestures, I see that the richness of an encounter depends on how much people allow themselves to “unsettle”, to question, to revise, to reinterpreted, and so on. But I also observe that they very rarely do this (or the opposite) deliberatively. Most of our actions result from what Franscico Varela calls “know-how”. We naturally orient ourselves and do things according to our previous experiences of similar contexts and general way of being. Developing awareness takes time. On the other hand, keep in mind that everything we do contribute in developing attitudes, for example towards others. From this perspective, every conversation is an occasion to cultivate one’s sensitiveness to gestures. Do you recognize elements from your research in using gestures in an International business context? “At first sight, my research in education has very little to do with international business, but when I think of it, I realise it would be quite interesting to put them in conversation. I just checked the origin of the word “business” and discovered it first meaning had to do with “care, anxiety, and occupation”. It only recently (18th century) took the sense of trade or commerce, words which also have fascinating origins. Take “commerce”, from the Latin “com” (together) and “merx” (merchandise). The gathering and the exchange of goods (services) appears to be the central element of “doing business” where the “international” factor measure the realm of such exchanges. Education can, and often was, conceptualized in similar ways: the passing on of knowledge. My work in this field, with my interest in gestures, goes toward a very different understanding of it, a more “relational” one. Prior to any exchange or passing on is the encounter with another.



The moment-to-moment of teaching or doing business is about being together (in physical presence or at distance), living together, contributing to the realization of the world we live in by concretely defining what it means to do business or to educate. Just like education, doing business can foster this togetherness, it can create relations; it can create community in the sense of Jean-Luc Nancy. This is how I see the research I am doing having something to offer, something especially important in the context on “international” work. An interesting example to look at would be a chapter I wrote with two colleges for an upcoming book on Ethics and International Curriculum Work.” How do you deal with gestures in a cross-cultural setting? “I very often find myself in such situations, and what I do is quite simple: I play. I love to offer common or uncommon gestures to evoke ideas, or suggest an approach, and see what people do with it. I find myself (re)inventing gestures in the course of a conversation, using an expression, an intonation, a hand movement to loop back to a prior moment in the conversation. I also love to “borrow” gestures from the people I meet and how they help me convoke ideas, or think in a different way. I also try and pay attention to how other people react to other’s gestures, I take note of my own reactions, and sometime I will even put it on the table and ask, “what do you mean by that”? But all this, really, in a playful way. I appreciate being with others, and gestures are one ingredient of by which this appreciation takes it flavour.” People tend to be very ‘formal’, especially in a business context, in contrast with the playfulness you where referring to earlier. Can you share your views on this? “Of course I also experienced “formalism” here in Canada and abroad. Formalism is exactly the opposite of the openness research on gestures invite us to listen to, draw on, and play with when we meet. But formalism is also ambiguous because there is no truly prescribed or accepted “forms” to adhere to. Situations are always and fundamentally open, and this is where one’s contribution to what it means to “do business” is so significant. This means that whether we are aware of it or not, we are always “playing” with the rules. The playful part as to do with enjoying it and seeing it as an occasion to come together with others. Playing with gestures does not mean to lose the 20

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purpose at hand, but to pay greater attention to how it is done, and become increasingly skilful in shaping these processes toward a sense of togetherness.” A few interesting references: •

Ricoeur, P. (1992). Oneself as Another. University of Chicago Press.

Varela, F. (1999). Ethical Know-How. Stanford University Press.

Nancy, J.L. (1991). The Inoperative Community. University of Minnesota Press.

Maheux, J.F., Swanson, D. & Khan, S. (in press). From Text to Pretext: An Ethical Turn in Curriculum Work. In T. Mason & R.J. Helfenbein (Eds.), Ethics and International Curriculum Work: The Challenges of Culture and Context. Information Age Publishing.

Jean François Maheux (www.math.uqam.ca/maheuxjf) works as a professor at UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) and joined the Chat@Uvic in August 2007. Chat@Uvic is a multidisciplinary research group at the University of Victoria, Canada. In this group, graduate students and post-doctorate fellows work together under the supervision of Dr. Wolff-Michael Roth. In the Chat@Uvic group researchers work together participating in group analysis and discussion meetings, and they also have co-authoring papers. As they have various research projects, they are very interconnected, and one of the major topics is “Gestures/Nonverbal Communication”. As part of their research on gestures and non-verbal communication in science, they elaborate on a reconceptualisation of conceptions that includes talk, gestures and relevant structures of the setting that speakers make available as semiotic resources when talking, based on interviews with students. Professor Maheux (maheux.jean-francois@uqam.ca) works with mathematics education and is now interested in the question of ethics in people’s transactions. He examines for example teachers and students or researchers and teachers in teaching, learning and researching mathematics education. In this, he gives a particular attention to the role of the body, while connecting with broader issues such as social justice.



Non-verbal Communication Sarah Meijer, Esther Jansma, Shaam Nathe

Non-verbal communication is as old as mankind itself. Even in prehistory, before any form of language or grammar was developed, humans conveyed messages non-verbally. Mankind relied mostly on instinct, body language and sounds such as grunts and cries. Despite non-verbal communication being the most basic form of communication, scientists only began taking an interest in it relatively recently. In fact, the term nonverbal communication was first used less than sixty years ago, in 1955 by researcher Gordon W. Hewes. When trying to understand how non-verbal communication works, a basic knowledge of the relationship between non-verbal communication and regular communication is necessary. Starting off, communication can be defined as: “To transmit a message from a source to a receiver using a specific tool”. In general, when thinking about communication, the first “tools” of conveying the message are: spoken words and written material. However, in the case of non-verbal communication the way of transmitting (the tool to get the message across) is non-verbal, meaning without words or language. When communicating face-to-face, non-verbal cues are often more important than what is actually being said. If non-verbal communication is used wrongly, the receiver is likely to interpret the information incorrectly, basically not receiving the intended message but mot likely a different one, which ultimately will cause confusion between the source and the receiver. We use the following example to illustrate this further. The source informs the receiver that the receiver has won the jackpot. Instead of showing signs of enthusiasm, the message is conveyed with lowered shoulders and a frowned facial expression. The receiver is confused because the spoken words contradict with the non-verbal part of the message (body language and gesture) and does not know whether the source is honest in his message or perhaps has an ulterior motive. 22

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Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the tools used for non-verbal communication are used in the right way, as it can mean the difference between getting the message across or not. Furthermore, any inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal communication can either be intentional (e.g. sarcasm and irony) or the source is not aware of the non-verbal signals that her or she provides, which in most cases finds its roots in intercultural differences between source and receiver. In order to better understand how non-verbal communication works, it is important to divide this type of communication in three different categories:

Written non-verbal communication “A picture is worth (more than) a thousand words.” This proverb shows how important non-verbal signs can be when getting a message transmitted. The receiver does not necessarily need to hear the message in language, but it suffices to see the signal to better understand the message. Written non-verbal communication is omnipresent in everyday life. Most obvious examples are signs and symbols (e.g. road signs are a simple way of transmitting an otherwise elaborate message). But also in written communication, segments of nonverbal communication can be found, like colours, underlining, italics, photographs and symbols that help to understand the meaning of the message or emphasise certain parts of it.

Oral non-verbal communication Oral communication involves conveying messages with the mouth, movement of the mouth and sounds produced with the mouth. A big part of non-verbal communication used every day is “paralanguage”. Although no words are spoken, the clicking of the tongue, shushing, laughing, crying, shrieking and moaning can send a clear message. In addition, paralanguage can add a layer of communication, as the intensity, pace and tone of the speaking but also hesitating to speak, make the meaning of the spoken words, attitude or the mood and emotions of the speaker clearer.



Body language In many societies and cultures, people are taught to conceal their true thoughts. The reasons for this are diverse and may vary in different parts of the world. However, it is very much possible to discover someone’s true opinion or conviction. Not only the mouth, language and sounds that are being produced help getting the message across; also the body can be used for this purpose. One of the first scientists who studied this aspect of non-verbal communication is Ray Birdwhistell. He introduced the term Kinesics in 1952 in his study “Introduction to Kinesics”. According to the Marian-Webster online dictionary the definition of Kinesics is: “A systematic study of the relationship between non-linguistic body motions (as blushes, shrugs, or eye movement) and communication.” Kinesics (“kinesis” is Greek for motion) is a study about non-verbal communication being transferred through body movements towards the receiver, and within this study, the following non-verbal cues can be distinguished:

Posture and body movement and orientation Many people are ignorant about their spontaneous and unobtrusive movements. If prepared to read the cues of the body language, these so-called “inconspicuous movements” can reveal a lot about the person of interest. The type of body movement and the intensity in how it is shown, is a good indicator of the direction of the conversation. Body language, and the usage thereof, can be quite different in many countries. In Western societies it is customary during discussions for both parties to have interaction with each other. Nodding on a regular basis and leaning the bodies towards each other to augment an open atmosphere express this.


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However, in Asian cultures the receiver listens quietly while the source sends the message across. In these cultures, it is considered rude to interrupt while the other has not finished talking. However, they will show their displeasure through their body movements. In Kurt W. Mortensen’s “The Laws of Charisma”, body movements indicating displeasure could increase perspiration, contain more mechanical movements or increase physical distance between source and receiver. When noticed, instant action needs to be undertaken by source to prevent a conversation having the wrong outcome.

Facial expressions Another way of discovering a person’s true opinion is through facial expressions. In his book “The Art of Non-verbal Selling, Gerhard Gschwandter, mentions important aspects of the face that can reveal the true feelings: •

eye contact (amelioration or avoidance)

skin colour (blushing)

skin tautness (tightness).

In Asian societies people have been trained to cover up their true feelings underneath their “masks”, because of the influence of Confucius, who introduced the concept of face. The loss of face is considered a true tragedy in these cultures and is to be avoided at all times.

Proxemics Proxemics (derived from proximity) is all about the distance that people keep between one another. The more connected people feel to each other, the closer they will stand or sit together. Although exact distances can vary in different cultures or for different individuals (depending on mood or situation), four types of basic “spaces” can be distinguished: •

public space (broadest version, approximately ten feet or more distance between source and receiver(s))

social space (less distant, ± four to twelve feet)

personal space (maximum in business context, about four feet)

intimate space (in general only between close friends or family and not appropriate in the business context. Less than four feet)



Gestures Another form of body language is the use of gestures. Fingers, hands, arms or the head can consciously or subconsciously be used to convey a message. Like other forms of non-verbal communication, gestures are also used to emphasise certain elements of verbal communication. However, in many occasions gestures are used without being fully aware of their, possibly different, meaning in certain cross cultural context, as they are so integrated in the cultural mind-set that they are used subconsciously. This is particularly dangerous in a business context as it can and will be influencial in the outcome of a business dealing if not used appropriately. Taking all the abovementioned aspects into consideration, the reality is that nonverbal communication has been around and used since the dawn of mankind and now that the world is on a fast track for internationalisation, the skills required to understand and correctly use non-verbal communication are more essential than ever before. However, it is not only about using the right sign, gesture or body movement, but more about increased awareness on the consequences for any business dealing if not used appropriately.


World without words

Cross-cultural communication Marijn Ensink, Zilla Meekel, Ronald Tai, Valerie Heijnen, Paul Mossman, Julia Kuzmina

Communication is a process by which an individual exchanges thoughts, messages or information through speaking, giving signals, or in writing. These examples are also known as verbal and non-verbal communication. When sending messages it is important that the receiver not only receives the messages, but also understands the meaning. The world keeps shrinking and communication is therefore a growing business. It has come a long way since 1603 where it took three days to send a message from London to Edinburgh. With the introduction of the telegram this was shortened to three hours. Later on, the telephone took this down to even three minutes and nowadays it only takes three seconds to send a message through internet and e-mail. People from all around the world are drawn together because of the developments in communication. In order to communicate properly, people need to change their thinking styles. It is no longer possible to expect a stranger to think and to communicate the same way.

Culture Culture refers to an addition of knowledge, beliefs, values, religion, traditions, and the law obtained by a group of people and passed on from generation to generation. There are difficulties when people try to communicate effectively across cultural and linguistic boundaries. This involves learning to listen, observe and speak according to a specific situation. In this respect, it is important to know about the counterpart’s culture, language, history, and residence. Visitors must understand the historical, political, economic, social, and cultural backgrounds of the inhabitants of the country involved. If a person is able to learn all this, he will become an effective interlocutor.



People are most comfortable when being in a conversation with someone rather similar. This sense of comfort tends to decrease when differences rise. The performance of a working team can be impacted by an employee’s openness to communicating. Colleagues prefer to communicate with, and are more open to, group members who are most comparable. Supposed dissimilarities tend to impact communication negatively. Co-workers from different cultures are most of the time unaware of occurring misunderstandings or errors. If they fail to recognise another person’s cultural backgrounds, ambitions, habits, thought patterns or values, a cross-cultural misunderstanding may occur. A process in which “cross-cultural” individuals try to share their thoughts is intercultural communication. When culturally alike, individuals communicate and intra-cultural communication occurs. Interracial communication happens when members of racial and ethnic groups who have differences in communication. When someone is on a long posting abroad, everything he does feels a bit unfamiliar. All everyday things still happen every day, but the foreigner has to adjust to his new home culture, the language and communication systems. In addition, he has to learn to work successful cross culturally with several different people. The background of a business partner will affect his approach to every decision made. An agreement depends on an understanding of the other side. Differences may appear by a different motivation, another set of priorities and the mutual relationship. The map of a country can imply a lot about the inhabitants. Casual observation of the outlines and contours can immediately give a consistency of the data in one’s head. Through the map, a person will already ask the right questions and equip a visual hook to find the answers. For a businessperson it is a matter of getting to know the trading nation. The process of interaction can be difficult between people who have diverse traditions, values, behaviours and communication styles. Strangers may have a dissimilar lifestyle, and their decisions may seem irrational, unpredictable, or unexplainable. During interaction this can cause concerns and communication will then become difficult. Even when people have similarities, mutual understanding can be hard.


World without words

Variables When people are communicating, variables occur which control their insight. However, those insights control the meanings of specific behaviours of human beings and how they communicate. To be capable in a multicultural work environment, it is important to recognise and have knowledge of how to deal with those variables. Attitudes Attitudes are psychological conditions that influence human beings on how to behave in certain situations. For a manager it is very important to keep in mind the personal and cultural differences between himself and others, and to know how to behave in a proper way. An improper attitude for managers, who are working in a multicultural environment, is ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism means that someone tends to criticize someone else by using his own personal or cultural values, instead of considering the values of the other person. Stereotypes Stereotypes can be described as a set of attitudes, which lead to the fact that specific qualities and characteristics can be blamed to a person based on the group where he belongs. In fact, stereotypes are the beliefs of persons who are not part of that group. These beliefs make it easier to understand and classify the modern society, because in this way people can quickly judge a certain situation or person. Mostly, the media distorts the negative views because the frequency of talking with the people involved is very low. Thought patterns Thought patterns or the way of thinking can be very different between cultures. The way of thinking in the West (the Aristotelian mode) differs from the way of thinking of people living in the East. It is possible that what is normal for Western people, does not make any sense or is awkward for people from the East. Space Space is an important variable when people are communicating. The space that is needed depends on the noncontact or contact culture. For some cultures it feels comfortable to stand two feet apart from each other, but on the other hand for some cultures it is very normal to stand close during communication.



Time sense Time sense can cause misunderstanding during communicating. Some cultures see time in the logic that there is a past, a present and a future. Although, there are also cultures, which are future-orientated, and they do not care about the present. Such differences should be prevented while people are communicating.

Countries The future will change significantly for the current worlds’ leading economies, such as the United States of America, Germany and the United Kingdom. The BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, are expected to have a tremendous growth within fifty years. These countries will have a much more distinguished role in the global economy. Since globalisation has brought countries closer to other countries, the world has to deal with ambiguity. China has a history of dealing with ambiguous subjects such as the degradation of the environment, violation of human rights, political corruptions and poverty. That is why China is expected to make a deep impact in the future on international communication practices. China is better equipped to communicate with countries in comparison to, for example, countries in Europe and North America. To international consumer brands, the Indian market is important and very wanted. To satisfy the consumers it is important to continue developing. In order to do so you need to think outside the box and be creative. The Indian market is very complex and business people need to see themselves through the eyes of the customer. Even if this means a businessman needs to step out of his comfort zone. Additionally, the largest part of the Arabic people is young, 60% of them is under the age of 25. They use social media and the Internet to express themselves. The Arabic world is believed to be one of the communication stories in the future. This is likely to be achieved by imported techniques and the use of local values.


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Contact and contract-oriented cultures One of the most significant differences between diverse countries is a focus either on personal relationships between business partners or written juridical agreements which are considered to be a basis for any present or future partnerships. In countries like the Netherlands, United States, Germany, Denmark and South Africa contracts and legal documents are tended to be much longer and have higher value. On the contrary, in Spain, Italy, India, Brazil, most of the Asian countries and big part of the Arabic and African world the relationships are more important than a deal at hand. This fundamental distinction influences many aspects of business relationships. Most of the initial meetings in contact oriented cultures are intended to get people acquainted, to establish personal connections. They do not get straight to business. Many of these gatherings are quite formal and that is where the recognition of the system of more subtle signals might play a great role in successful closing a deal.

Trends Nowadays, it is very clear that trends are shifting in the world of communication. New technologies are being introduced after one another. This movement shows that people have to be ready for new ways of communicating. People should have knowledge of the most effective technologies, which can be used for both social life, and business related matters. In a split second everybody can have contact with anyone, but only the people who know how to communicate correctly will be successful. But first it is important to discuss the current movement of public perceptions on cross cultural communication, as the impact of terrorism has caused people to think and act different (e.g. during travelling or doing business abroad). This new global environment makes people be more careful than ever before, when dealing with other cultures. People are not used to being observed or to be reticent, but there is no other choice than to hold on to the comfort zone. Nowadays, it is less easy to receive trust from someone. This means people will be communicating in a different business context.



Within the new ways of communicating the main movement is social media. These digital ways of communicating such as blogging, photo-sharing and social networks, enlarge the way people relate to each other in a business context (e.g. LinkedIn) as well as in people’s private lives (e.g. Facebook). People are now more accessible than they ever were before and establishing a relationship and discussing possible business deals should become much more easier because of quick digital contact. On the other hand, one should be careful with using such social media, because personal information, which should not be revealed, could easily end up on the Internet. Therefore, these new technologies bring some interesting opportunities to communicate effectively, but one should be aware of the possible threats, which are close by when getting started with internet and social media. Similar to having a cultural element in face-to-face communication, people should be aware of cultural differences in online communication. One should acknowledge the fact that the Internet has its own rules in behaviour.


World without words

Gestures Kai Groefsema, Niek Kuijper, Kiki Walder

Introduction A famous quote about (non-verbal) communication is one from Peter F. Drucker, which expresses de multiple layers of communication: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” People, as said by Bull (2001), can express (unintentional) messages non-verbally, through body language or gestures, which can be interpreted differently by the recipient. While communication is a vital and indispensable tool in every society, the way people communicate with each other is based on their cultural backgrounds, which determine the rules of the level-playing field.

Gesture History Calero described a possible theory for the origins of gestures in his (2005) “The Power of Nonverbal Communication”: “ If these theories are right, gestures are the parents of words” He describes the theory that communication developed from gestures to eventually words, thus a gesture can be considered as a communication tool to express a message or emotion. Additionally, a gesture can be a very effective mean to communicate, while on the other hand, gestures are under cultural influence and not used with the same meaning everywhere. During the 1950’s Ray Birdwhistell conducted one of the first research in the field of nonverbal communication and gestures. The term kinesics was introduced to describe movements, posses and gestures, while research was based on social conversations studied from his experience as an anthropologist. According to his research conversations relied far less on the information carried by spoken words and kinesics where the largest sender of information instead.



The research of gestures was placed in a different context in Streeck’s 2009 “Gesturecraft: The manu-factoring of meaning”. He describes an interactionist approach, where non-verbal communication is separated from speech as part of research, while other studies conducted research to prove the relation of speech with nonverbal expressions like gestures. These findings are comparable with those of Kendon (1972) who relates gesture and speech as two individual aspects who correlate well together. Nowadays Kendon is adopting a more functional approach in researching communication with the correlation between speech and gestures. The findings of Streeck (2009) point out that David McNeil used a psychological approach to examine the relation between gestures and speech. McNeil has done studies and research, according to Streeck (2009), to point out that both are part of the same psychological language system. What we have seen in the field of gestures is that this topic is researched from a anthropological, psychological and biological point of view, and from these perspectives research also directed to the term body language. Although a popular term body language, which has been used in the research field in the last two decades, it was not used until 1971 when Julius Fast introduced it. He believed that a person’s body expresses signals, like body movements or facial expressions, to send a message to a receiver, and ultimately for a language by itself; body language. During this period of time a influential research was done by Paul Ekman who was a pioneer in researching emotions as a part of facial expressions. In addition, Ekman (1972) introduced the neurocultural model, stating at least six emotions (fear, disgust, happiness, anger, sadness and surprise), which are crossculturally universal. Although this theory has been criticized on many occasions, according to Bull (2001), the neurocultural model is still regarded important for the nonverbal communication through facial extraction.


World without words

Categories of gestures Gestures can be given in a variety of ways and the amount of gestures is quite astonishing. There are famous gestures, locally orientated gestures and also there can be several different meanings or variations for these gestures. As researched by McNeill (1992) the definition of gestures is: “Idiosyncratic spontaneous movements of the hands and arms while accompanying speech” In R.E. Axtell’s: “The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World”, four general gesture categories are described: •

Welcome gestures

Summoning gestures

Offending gestures

Touching gestures.

However, McNeill five other categories to classify gestures: Iconic gestures “bear a close formal relationship to the semantic content of speech” (McNeill, p. 12). According to McNeill, iconic gestures refer to a specific event- or object, while metaphoric gestures refer to a more abstract idea. For example in discussing the multiplication of fractions, the gesture “X” can be used, however this is a mathematical point of view. The gesture X in this context only applies to those who are familiar with mathematics. Metaphoric gestures “the pictorial content presents an abstract idea rather than a concrete object or event” (McNeill, p.14). These type of gestures can be explained by the gesture to indicate wether or not an individual wishes another spoon of salt or not whilst cooking a meal. One explains his or her motivation through the use of hands in a three dimensional way. 35


Beat gestures “indexes the word or phrase it accompanies as being significant... for its discourse pragmatic content” (McNeill. 15). The beat gesture is used to emphasize certain elements or to make a certain point. Cohesive gestures “serve to tie together thematically related but temporally separated parts of the discourse” (McNeill, p. 16). This gesture is generally used to give a group of people a simple yet clear message or instruction. For this gesture to work properly, people need to actually watch the person making the gesture, which can raise certain problems. Deictic gestures “pointing movement (that) selects a part of the gesture space” (McNeill, p. 80). The most common gesture of deictic is the “pointing finger” or dividing things in two. This gesture is very direct and could also be understood as intimidating, yet it is one of the most used gestures in cross cultural scenario’s.


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Nodding and shaking the head Rose Botman, Anke de Vries, Niels de Wit, Yentl Snoek, Loes Tiemes

Nodding A nod of the head is a gesture in which the head is alternately tilted down toward the chest or the front of the visual field, and up toward the back. The most common, but not exclusive meaning of the gesture is agreement, acceptance, or acknowledgement.

Nodding to indicate acceptance or recognition Depending on the culture, the gesture can have a variety of meanings. It is understood to mean “yes” in many cultural and linguistic groups around the world, including in Western Europe, North America, Latin America, Iran, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent (here a variation of nodding is widely used: the head bobble - tilting the head down toward one shoulder, then the other - to indicate agreement). A vigorous nodding often indicates a strong agreement, whilst nodding slowly indicates a weaker one.

Origins There are several different theories to explain why the nod as a gesture for “yes” is so widely used. One straightforward theory posits that it is an alternate version of bowing, for example; showing one’s willingness to agree or cooperate with another person. Another theory cites the fact that hungry infants move their heads vertically when in search of food, but turn them to the side to reject it. In 1872, Charles Darwin wrote The Expressions and the Emotions in Man and Animals, an early account of the study of nodding and other gestures. Darwin reached the conclusion that nodding to say “yes” was widespread among many populations after writing to a great number of foreign missionaries around the world to ask about their observations of local gestures.

Nod of acknowledgment Greeting with a nod, a way of using the gesture to show acknowledgement, is done through a single, slight movement of the head, either up or down. An upward nod is considered more casual while a downward nod is more formal. Men seem to use this type of non-verbal greeting more than women, though it is also not unheard of for women to prefer it over words or a wave of the hand. 40

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Shaking It usually indicates disagreement or disapproval and its strength is indicated by the power of the head movement. If the head is also tilted down while shaking, this means absolute disapproval, maybe accompanied with disappointment or even aversion.

Signals in conversations By nodding or shaking ones head whilst talking, one can strengthen or emphasize a story. It can also encourage the other person to agree. Nodding while the other person is talking can encourage him to keep talking. This also works the other way around: shaking ones head can discourage the other person.

Country specific meanings In most countries nodding the head up and down signals yes, and shaking it back and forth signals no. However, in Bulgaria, parts of Greece, former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran and Bengal it means the opposite. Tipping the head back or jerking up the chin while raising the eyebrows means no in Greece, while dropping the chin down several times means yes. Furthermore, a clicking of the tongue added to a backward nod means no in Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, Greece and some parts of the Middle East. Tilting the head at an angle to each side in southern India means yes.



Eyelid pull Rose Botman, Anke de Vries, Niels de Wit

Extending the index finger below the centre of the eye and pulling the skin downwards is how this gesture is used. In France and Greece this means “I am alert”, “I am looking” or “You cannot fool me”. In Italy and Spain, it is a friendlier warning, meaning “Be alert, that guy is clever”. This gesture is barely used in the Unites States (besides the Latin part of the population) and in the most European countries it means you need to be aware of something or someone. In South America this gesture is performed to indicate a women is good looking or attractive, but on the other hand, in Yugoslavia people will use this gesture to point out something sad, by referring to a tear. In the majority of the European countries this gesture is applied in both day-today interactions between individuals as well as in business. Moreover, as a sign of caution, this gesture is commonly used in sports or as a sign in manuals of dangerous appliances/machines.




Wink Rosanne Smit, Yentl Snoek, Loes Tiemes

A wink is a facial expression made by briefly closing only one eye. In a professional environment, the wink is often used as a mean to show that what is being said is meant in jest. Depending on the situation and the relationship between the interlocutors, a wink can also indicate a silent agreement between two people. Additionally, it is a way to establish contact and to reassure, to support a person in certain situations. A wink seems like a fairly innocuous form of non-verbal communication, but applied in a different culture setting, this gesture can mean something different and sometimes less innocent, as can be shown in the following three examples: •

During a vice presidential debate in 2008, Sarah Palin was unaware of the meaning of winking in a number of Asian countries. Her wink led to great commotion among Asians. That is to say, in many Asian countries, but also in Australia, winking is considered impolite.


In certain Latin American cultures, winking can also be interpreted as romantically or sexually suggestive.


A wink from parents to their children in West-Africa is a request to leave the room when a guest or adult enters. Should a child make no move to leave the room, winking is the way to make this clear.




Eyebrow Flash Rosanne Smit, Yentl Snoek, Loes Tiemes

As founder of human ethology and contributor of huge amount of research on the study of human behaviour, Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt (born 1928) was the first to label the quick raising of the eyebrows, which are kept in this position for approximately one-sixth of a second, as an “eyebrow flash”. His analysis of the raising of the eyebrows as communicative behaviour showed that worldwide, people greet each other by briefly raising the eyebrows. This gesture is often accompanied by a smile and a quick nod of the head. However, there are many culture-bound variations: •

In Central Europe the eyebrow flash is noticeably absent in people with introverted personalities.

The Japanese tend to suppress it while interacting with anyone other than children or familiar adults.

Polynesians show it generously to people of any age group.

Although the eyebrow flash is often part of friendly behaviour, in some cultures it has also been observed to have the following functions: •

giving approval,

agreeing/seeking confirmation,



beginning and/or emphasising a statement.

According to Eibl-Eibesfeldt, a distinction is made between: the eyebrow flash, a swift raising of the eyebrows and a slower variation, which is a sign of indignation, arrogance and social rejection.




The Hand Purse Rosanne Smit, Yentl Snoek, Loes Tiemes

This gesture, which is made by bringing together the tips of the five fingers in an upward-facing point and subsequently shaking the hand, is known as the hand purse. This gesture was described as early as 1832, in a book on Neapolitan gestures by Andrea Di Jorio and is commonly used in many cultures around the globe, with varied meanings. It is used with the greatest frequency in Italy and Italian immigrant communities in the United States (for example in New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). In this particular cultural framework, it usually means that the person using the gesture wants the receiver to explain something, or to explain him or herself better. Meanwhile, in Greece and Turkey a variation is used, where the shaking of the hand is replaced with moving it down once, which means “good”. This variation can be compared to bringing the pursed fingers to one’s lips and pretending to kiss them, as is seen in other parts of Europe. In Malta, the downward motion also has the potential to be used to mockingly compliment something bad, but on the other hand, in Belgium, France and Portugal it can be used to show fear when the fingers are pressed together and then separated somewhat, mimicking the involuntary response of sphincter muscles to panic. In Yugoslavia, Spain, the Canary Islands, and Spanish-speaking parts of South America, repeatedly opening and closing the fingers slightly indicates a big crowd and the Dutch and Germans use it to emphasize statements, as if adding a nonverbal “beat” to their speech A slow raising of the hand to the Arab peoples of Tunisia, northern Africa and the Middle East, is a request for patience, but raising the pursed hand to the mouth in a vertical position is universally understood as a sign for being hungry.




Finger to forehead Nick Hoekzema, Laurens Wijnker, Stefan Boom

Although many varieties exist, the general meaning of this gesture is twofold: •

It indicates someone or something to be/act crazy.

It shows that someone is intelligent.

It is displayed by tapping the forefinger a couple of times to the centre of the forehead and it is meant to draw the attention to the brain, either indicating its brilliance or stupidity. Even though both meanings are widely used, the most common usage is the indication of craziness or stupidity. In addition to this, there also exists a slight variation to this gesture, where not the middle of the forehead is tapped, but the sides (either left or right). This variation is particularly used for the “intelligence” meaning and in particular to indicate “I know what I am doing” or “After all I am not stupid”. This gesture is used all over the world, but primarily in the Americas and Europe. To conclude, the following variation of this gesture is also quite interesting. Instead tapping the forehead with one finger (index finger) the whole hand is used and it indicates a person has done or said something stupid. This gesture is most common in the Mediterranean region but used quite universally.




Okay Sign Sharon van Leeuwen, Joseph Appiah-kubi, Jimmy Bóné , Mohamed Nabih, Fouad Sout, Rosanne Smit, Loes Tiemes

The Okay sign is made by touching the tips of the thumb and index finger together, forming a circle, while the other fingers are extended. This gesture, also referred to as the ring gesture, has been known from the first century A.D. and has its origin in the following story: During a conversation, when a speaker wants to make a precise point, he unconsciously brought his thumb and forefinger tips together, as if holding a precise miniscule object between them. By doing this you make a ring with your hand. It is said that from this unconscious move the OK gesture has been born. The gesture was popularized in America in 1836 as a symbol to support, at that time, the Presidential candidate Martin Van Buren. This was because Van Buren’s nickname, Old Kinderhook (referring to his hometown Kinderhook NY), had the initials O.K. This sign has a variety of meanings and connotations. It is a socially acceptable gesture in the United States and United Kingdom, where it indicates agreement, satisfaction, or favourable judgement. However, in Belgium and France it is meant to mimic the number zero: meaning “zero” or “nothing” and in Finland it also means zero, although in a more specific context. Conscripted members of the Finnish Defence Forces will make the gesture on their last day of service to celebrate the amount of days they have left before the end of their national service and the honourable discharge they will receive that day. In contrast, it is considered highly offensive in Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, the Middle East, Russia, and parts of Germany and South America, where it is taken to mimic the shape of the rectum. In Spain, Eastern Europe and certain parts of Latin America, it is also a very impolite and obscene gesture.


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To indicate its severity, during a visit to Brazil in the 50s, Vice President Nixon of the United States made this gesture, thinking it meant the same thing to Brazilians as it does to his own countrymen. The crowd gathered for his speech turned into a rampaging mob. Furthermore, in Arab countries, shaking one’s hand while making this gesture represents “the evil eye�. It is a cause of great fear, because it gives the receiver reason to believe that the signaller is placing a curse on him/her. And lastly, in Japan, it can be used to request change in coins at a shop or bank, with the circle of the fingers representing a coin.



Beckoning gesture Sharon van Leeuwen, Joseph Appiah-kubi, Jimmy Bóné , Mohamed Nabih, Fouad Sout

This form of nonverbal communication attracts the attention of someone and encourages that person to come closer or to follow the gesturer. It is one of the world’s most common gestures including the movement of the hand. The general meaning of this gesture is “come here or follow me”. In North America or Northern Europe the beckoning gesture is made with the hand up, the index finger pointed out of the clenched fist and the palm facing the gesturer. As the fingers are clinched into the palm, the palm is hidden from the receiver of the gesture. The curled index finger moves in a back and forth motion towards the gesturer as a sign to draw someone closer. The way the beckoning gesture is performed can differ from one country to another. In some Asian and Western countries beckoning is performed by turning the hand downward and moving the fingers in a scratching motion. In these countries, curling the index finger is only used use when animals are beckoned. It is considered rude to point at someone with the finger extended.




Waving Sharon van Leeuwen, Joseph Appiah-kubi, Jimmy Bóné , Mohamed Nabih, Fouad Sout, Yentl Snoek

Waving is (in general) a movement where people show their palm and wave it from side to side. The most common meaning of this gesture is to greet each other or say goodbye from a distance. Another kind of “waving goodbye” in Europe is when the hand is hold out, the palm facing up, and repeatedly slap all four fingers as a group toward themselves, although in the United States it means “come here”. Moreover, North Americans signal “hello”, “good-bye” or when trying to get the attention of a distant person, by raising the arm and waggle the open hand back and forth, but throughout much of Europe this action actually indicates “No”. However, when bidding a greeting or farewell, Europeans customarily raise the arm and bob the hand up and down at the wrist, similar to the wrist action when dribbling a basketball, and Italians may use an entirely different version: palm up, fingers curling inward, back and forth. Furthermore, in Southern countries waving is also done by moving the hand up and down, which looks like you are being “shoo-ed” away. But actually it means “could you come here please?”. In Southern countries when you wave with your backhand many times, it means “Go away”. Waving with your palm towards the ground, beside your cheek means lower the voice in volume please. There is also a gesture where people raise both hands till beneath the chin with the palm towards your face and then wave it from side to side meaning: “no thank you”, “I do not want to” or “I am finished/satisfied”. When waving a hand back and forth in front of the face in Japan, it signals “I do not know” or “no”. In addition to this, raising the palm outward and wag the fingers in unison, is a serious insult in Nigeria, if the hand is too close to another person’s face.




Closed/Crossed arms Simone Timmermans, Bart-Jan van Wezel

Crossed arms may indicate anxiety, which is either driven by a lack of trust in the other person, discomfort within the person himself or a sense of vulnerability. The way people cross their arms indicates how close or defensive they are. This can range from a light and loose cross of the arms, to arms folded and arms wrapped tight around the person’s body. An extreme version, which may indicate hostility is tight, closed arms with hands formed as fists. If the legs are crossed as well this strengths the signal. The hands in an arm-cross may also be used to hold the person in a reassuring selfhug (for example; holding upper arms in folded-arms position or wrapped around the torso, holding the sides). If the thumbs are up, this may indicate some approval or agreement with what is being said, but the person is still not sure about the situation. In a business context and to break this pattern, sales-people give the other something to hold an object in their hands (for example; paper or sample of product) or otherwise ask them to use their hands. Crossed arms can also indicate the individual is trying to keep him or herself under control and tries to suppress any signals or to hold back anger. However in most Asian cultures it shows the person is paying extra attention to what you are saying, which is a big compliment. When arms are not crossed, they expose the person, making them more vulnerable. This signifies comfort that often indicates trust. It can also be used to show who is in charge because it shows confidence. Note that not all crossed arms are defensive. Sometimes folded arms are just a relaxed position, or the person can be cold and tries to keep warm this way.




Peace sign Simone Timmermans, Bart-Jan van Wezel

There are two main ways to use the peace sign: With the palm pointed at someone It can just be a way to make clear you want two pieces of something (for example; two photo-copies of a report towards a secretary). It is also used to make fun of somebody in a photograph, making the other person look like a rabbit by putting the two fingers behind his head. However, the most common use of this sign is to use it as the “Peace Sign�, but it also became famous as a victory sign (the index and middle finger separated from each other look like the letter V) since Winston Churchill used it as a sign of victory during the Second World War. Ever since, the symbol has been increasingly popular and was used later on during many peace movements and protest (e.g. Vietnam War and other anti-war protests). It also important to mention the sign’s importance during the hippy era, indicating peace, love and happiness. It is also used to indicate quotation marks. But this is done with two hands and bending fingers. In general it is used to make clear the quote is meant in an ironical way. With the back of the hand turned to someone It still can mean that you just want two pieces of a product and in the United States it still indicates the peace sign, but in the United Kingdom, Ireland, South-Africa, Australia or New Zealand it can be taken as an offend, comparable with pointing the middle finger in Netherlands.




Handshake Simone Timmermans, Bart-Jan van Wezel

There are numerous different handshakes. The way someone shakes hands says a lot about his/her personality. But how is a handshake used to make a good impression and what are the differences between different countries? Palm Vertical It sends a message of greetings: “I am here for you as you for me” or “We are equals”. It is a handshake commonly used by politicians. Palm up This subtle body language message is humility and that someone is there to help and to serve and advisable during a job interview. Palm Down This shows authority and leadership and indicates the gesturer’s ability to get the job done. However, it can also indicate a controlling personality, which is not preferable in every situation. Combined with eye contact If the goal is to demonstrate self-confidence, sincerity and camaraderie, maintaining eye contact whilst shaking hands is a sensible thing to do. Use pressure The desired amount of (physical) pressure used in a handshake depends of the culture. In Anglo-Saxon cultures a firm handshake is appropriate, as it indicates the other to be self-confident and self-assured, which, in these cultures, is a desirable trade in a counterpart doing business with. However in Latin and Asian cultures, firm handshakes can be perceived as overly confident, even arrogant and indicates the other to be unsure about whatever he or she is telling or trying to achieve.




Hugs Roy Blokker, Martine de Best, Felix Prummel, Maggy Tuyp

When thinking about hugs perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is a warm embrace between family or friends. Hugs may mean a variety of things, for example “goodbye”, “welcome” or “thank you”. They can be a show of support, a way of sharing, an expression of love or a means of congratulating. The experience of a hug is usually more powerful and personal than a handshake. Hugs have also been found to benefit human health, leading to the fairly common practice of hug therapy in hospitals and in private settings, the latter sometimes turning out to be profitable business. Embraces are most comfortable when a (personal) relationship already has been established and can be awkward with someone whom you have just met or with people who’s cultural background does not contain such expression of affection or appreciation. Given the many videos online explaining when and how to hug and, moreover, how to avoid being sued as result of a hug, it becomes clear that this gesture is not so straightforward as it appears. A 2011 study by the University of Dundee, based on footage of the spontaneous embraces among athletes during the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, stipulated the worldwide custom of hugging. “The interesting thing is that, regardless of culture, nationality or gender, they all shared the moment through a hug whether they were expressing happiness, comforting, or being comforted.” - A. Nugy, psychologist. Despite this study’s outcome, care should be taken when hugging people around the globe. Hugs between opposite sexes are often a reason for concern and discomfort, as reflected in the embracing customs around the world. Take for example Pakistan, and other Middle Eastern countries, where hugs in public are shared only among same sex partners. On the other hand, in North America and Australia hugs may be part of everyday life. In Europe, however, a handshake or cheek kisses are more common.


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A geographical guide on where to hug is insufficient, as the answer to “when to hug?” depends not only on the region of the world, but also on the particular situation and your relationship with the person you intend to hug. In formal business or work-like settings hugs are usually inappropriate, except perhaps to accentuate a personal relationship (although one should be aware of bystanders who may judge the confrontation). When in doubt, the best indicator of “when to hug?” is the other party. At the point when he or she comes in for a hug there is no reason to hold back.



Kisses Roy Blokker, Martine de Best, Felix Prummel, Maggy Tuyp

Kissing is used in many gestures worldwide. The meaning of these gestures differs widely, from a way of greeting to express an apology. Some of the gestures date back centuries, like the hand kiss and the foot kiss. These gestures evolved in a time that the part of the body that was kissed, depended on your social status. Only people of equal (social) status were allowed to kiss the other on the cheek. The lower the social status, the lower the kiss. The hand kiss is the longest survivor of all various status kisses. The foot kiss is rare nowadays but it is still used as a ritual when the Pope symbolically washes and kisses the feet of the poor during the Holy Week. Nowadays, the most common gesture involving kissing is the cheek kiss, which is used to greet the other person. The gesture might sound universal but the way it is executed differs per country or area. Also who is kissing whom, depends on location, as each country or area has its own appropriate social context. In some cultures it is normal for men to kiss each other while in others this can lead to awkward situations. Kissing the fingertips is used in several gestures, which have similar meanings. To praise something or someone, the fingertips are lightly touched and then the hand is moved from the mouth while spreading the fingers. This gesture dates back to the early Greek and Roman era where it was common to throw a kiss towards the image of a god when entering temples. In certain parts of Europe kissing the fingertips towards someone is used as a salutation. Another gesture involving kissing the fingertips is to say “I love you”. A flatter hand is used and the kiss is blown towards the loved one. Placing kisses on the hands is part of other gestures as well. A chef’s favourite in continental Europe is the hand ring kiss. The gesture meaning delicious is performed when the hand is moved in the ring position (the perfection sign) with the thumb and forefinger lightly touching and the fingers are kissed. In Latin countries kissing the thumbnail is used to say “I swear”. 66

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In the Arab culture there are a few gestures in which kisses are used. To show gratitude, the knuckle of the right hand is kissed, and then the hand rotates so that the palm is facing upwards and the eyes are raised to heaven. To show regret, a kiss is placed on the nose of a companion to apologise after a dispute. The forehead is kissed to show extreme respect, a subordinate kisses someone higher in rank.



Size measurements Roy Blokker, Martine de Best, Felix Prummel, Maggy Tuyp

This chapter covers the different hand gestures used to indicate size, in particular length or height and width. It seems a simple and uncomplicated gesture, but there are some small, tough important, differences in meaning. Something “simple� like the measurement of height can offend people in Latin American countries and especially in Colombia. In this particular country it is important how you put your palm when indicating someone’s height. If one wants to show the height of a person, the edge of the palm must point downward and when indicating the height of an animal the palm must be pressed downward. Another common used gesture to designate length or width, is by extending the fingers of each hand and show the length/width in-between. Normal in most countries, but again not appropriate in Colombia, as it is seen as a rude gesture. There one extends the hand and forearm, with palm held vertically, and demonstrates the length/width with the vertical palm of the other hand. A different way of indicating size is the open space in-between the thumb and forefinger, a gesture that is used worldwide. This can also cause major problems, as the other, ruder, interpretation is that a man has a small penis. One more gesture that can insult a lot of people all over the world is the erected little finger. In parts of Europe and South America it shows that an object or a person is thin. The other, insulting, meaning is also small penis, which is used all over the world and mostly in the Mediterranean region.




Eye contact/staring/watching Steffan Amende, Hilletje Hulsman, Robin Wilm

Eye contact is considered an important aspect of non-verbal communication. Eye contact can be seen as: showing interest in a person, interest in where he is speaking about or as something rude (mainly in Asian countries). When in Europe, maintaining eye contact when talking or listening gives the other party the impression that one is honest and confident. Making slight or no eye contact can give a nervous or shy impression. When someone does not blink or only at a low frequency this is seen as a sign of confidence. On the other hand, establishing long eye contact without speaking to the other party, or staring, in general is seen as an aggressive act and might also be interpreted as being unbalanced. Especially in Asian cultures, staring can result in aggressive reactions, as in these cultures it is common to avoid looking someone directly in the eyes (perceived as impolite or disrespectful). In addition to this, hierarchy plays an important role in Asian countries when making eye contact. Children show respect to their elders by not making direct eye contact and in a working environment, employees are not allowed to make eye contact with their superiors, as this will show a sign of disrespect In the Middle East, however, the usage of eye contact has a total different meaning, as is the use thereof. In these cultures, direct eye contact between men and women is inappropriate. This comes forth out of their law of appropriateness; only a short moment of eye contact between men and women is accepted.

Other applications of eye contact When someone is being untruthful, this sometimes can be seen in the amount of eye contact he or she makes when speaking. When someone makes no eye contact or stares to the floor when asked an important question, this could give the implication the person in question lied.


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Also, wearing sunglasses when talking to someone outdoors is universally considered as rude, as it is seen as creating an undesired distance or barrier between the individuals. This can also be perceived as not wanting to show an identity.


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Argentina - Argentine Republic Ekaterina Trofimova, Alexandra Petkina

Argentina is the second in size after Brazil in South America. The official language is Spanish. Generally, most people speak Spanish enriching it with a local dialect. The most popular sport in Argentina is soccer. While visiting Argentina attending a football match is must-do for the great experience of passion and support of local fans. The official currency of Argentina is the peso, divided into one hundred centavos. The fashion and art scenes are booming nowadays, which can be another attraction for sophisticated tourists. Argentines are very enthusiastic people who may ask very personal questions after a few minutes of acquaintance, but as the matter of fact, visitors are expected to do the same. In another case it will be perceived as a lack of interest in further communication. It is better to be aware of incredible directness Argentine people are used to show, that will help to avoid a certain number of conflict situations. Separated topic is gestures used in everyday life, because people of this South American country are meant to be non-verbally expressive.



Women may be seen

To beckon someone,

walking along the

extend the arm,

street arm-in-arm,

palm down, and

if they are good

make a scratching

friends. In business

motion with the fingers.

culture this is not appropriate.

Eye contact Good eye contact is


Arms akimbo

important because

Standing with the hands on the hips

Argentines consider

suggests anger, or a challenge.

it a form of trust.

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Finger to side of head

Okay sign

To signal across

The okay sign

a distance to

(index finger

another person

and thumb in a

that “you have

circular form) is

a phone call”,

a rude gesture in

Argentines will

the neighbouring

often point the index finger toward the

country of Brazil, so most Argentines

side of the head and make a circular

will be aware of that gesture and that

motion. This can be confusing, because


in North America and other Western countries that gesture can also mean

Raising fist upwards

“you are crazy”.

Since one of Argentina’s most popular sports


is soccer, a popular

A warm handshake

gesture conveying

is the custom

exuberance and victory

greeting here. As

is to raise the fist upward emphatically,

men become well

with the knuckles of the fingers

acquainted, the

pointing outward.

handshake might forearm or elbow. Good friends will

Thumb-up / Thumb-down

greet with an embrace, which may also

To indicate that

include several hearty pats on the back.

something is

be accompanied by a light touch on the

just «so-so»,


Argentines will extend the hand and

Women friends kiss each other on the

fingers and waggle the thumb up and

cheek and shake hands using both

down: thumb up, then thumb down,

hands, but will not usually easily talk to

repeating it several times.

strangers without first being properly introduced.

Yawning Yawning in public is considered rude.



Austria - Österreich Imara Louwe

The official name of Austria is the Republic of Austria. Austria is a country situated in the centre of Europe and shares borders with Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Italy. Austria’s terrain is full of mountains. This is because of the presence of the Alps. Only 32% of the country is situated five hundred metres below sea-level. Austria’s highest point is 3,798 metres.


Hand purse

When people in

In Austria this gesture

Austria beckon their

means query. It can

hand, it means come

be used as a gently

here. This gesture


makes a sweeping upward movement

query but is most

with the palm up.

of the time used as an action in the context of an irritated

Clicking heels


A formal way of greeting in Austria is by clicking the heels. This is a way to

Finger to the side of the head

greet someone in a respectful way.

Tapping to the side of the head in Austria means that the other person is very intelligent and smart.


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Chile - Republic of Chile Ekaterina Trofimova, Alexandra Petkina

Chile is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal area between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. In a recent survey, about seventeen percent of the population over age fourteen identified themselves as Roman Catholic and the biggest part of the rest as evangelical. The Spanish spoken in Chile is notably different from neighbouring South American countries because of soft pronunciation and unlike accent. Chile’s currency is the Chilean peso. Although modern in many ways, Chile remains basically traditional. It is advisable not to openly disrespect or ignore those traditions. People tend to speak in conversational tones not opposing each other.



Waiters may be

At the first

beckoned with hand

introduction, a

gestures, but others

handshake is the

are beckoned more

customary greeting.


Among close friends, an embrace may also

Eye contact

occur, along with a possible pat on the

Maintaining good


eye contact is seen as a sign of trust.

Kissing Men and women who are good friends,

Fist in palm

will kiss one cheek, usually the right

Making a fist and

one. Two women that are good friends

slapping it up into the palm of the

will do so as well. However, you shall

other hand is a very rude gesture.

never see two men kissing on the cheek.



Rising when entering the room

Spreading fingers

Men should note that when a woman

Holding the palm upward and then

enters the room, the polite gesture is

spreading the fingers signals that

to rise and be prepared to shake her

someone is “stupid�.

hand if she offers it. A seated woman, however, need not rise, nor is she


obliged to offer her hand when a man

Yawns should be


covered with the hand.

Sitting positions Good posture while seated is important.


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Denmark - Danmark Emad Alishech, Sheila Lopes Afonso, Wartan Rustamjan, Emir Halilovic, Ilhame Hajji

Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government and has been a member of the European Union since 1973, but has not joined the Eurozone. In Denmark both the state and private sector direct the economy. The country has a large welfare state and Denmark has the world’s highest level of income equality and the least corruption in the world. The Danish people tend to be strongly task oriented. Danes get down to business quickly, with very little small talk. These factors have got a large impact on the way in which business is done in Denmark. An outsider will be judged on the strength of words and actions. Denmark, similarly to its neighbours such as Poland, does not belong to one of the “touching” countries. It is considered rude to get too close while conversing, so there should be at least an arm’s length of space maintained. Touching while conversing is seen as intimate, so will possibly seen as inappropriate if it occurs between unfamiliar people. Gestures allow individuals to communicate a variety of feelings and thoughts, from contempt and hostility to approval and affection. The expressive gestures of southern Europeans are not seen much in Denmark. Visitors have to be aware that some of the gestures they know are used in Denmark but may have a different context and their meaning may differ from the more widespread ones.


Eye contact

The “come over

In Denmark it

here” gesture is

is important to

performed in a

maintain eye

widespread manner.

contact while

In Denmark it is also often used in the

being introduced,

Royal Danish Ballet.

proposing a toast and during a conversation, as it facilitates the process of building a relationship. 79


Finger to side of the head

Okay sign

Making circular

The American okay

motions using the

sign, with thumb and

index finger while

index finger forming

pointing to the side

a circle, can be seen as

of one’s head is seen

an obscene gesture in

as a rude gesture


in Denmark indicating that someone is crazy or deranged.

Peace Sign The peace sign indicates

Folded arms

peace and victory.

In Denmark, folding

Danish also use this

one’s arms is seen as

gesture but travelers

not being interested.

have to make sure to make the gesture


correct because there is a difference

Shaking hands is a widely used manner

between using the palm in or out.

of greeting. Upon meeting people in Denmark, shake

Pointing finger

hands. This is also

Pointing finger is a

the case when

gesture employed to

departing. It is also

point at something

perfectly acceptable

or somebody. It

for men to shake

may be seen as a

hands with women. Always shake hands

rude gesture, so it is

with the woman first.

recommended to avoid it.


Shaking the head

Danes do not kiss one another socially -

A negative shake

the closest women get is an air kiss and

of the head where

men may exchange slaps on the back if

the head moves

they know each other well.

from side to side in a Danish context

Nodding the head Nodding to indicate “yes” is widespread; this gesture also has the same meaning in Denmark but can also mean “I understand”. 80

means “no”.

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The eyelid pull


By placing the

Blinking is rapidly

extended forefinger

opening and

below the center of

closing the eyes

the eye and pulling

simultaneously. The

the skin downward

most common use of

one can say that

intentional blinking

they are alert and looking.

is to suggest confusion and to flirt.

Thumbs- up


The thumbs- up

A hand wave is a gesture

gesture in Denmark

that is used in order to

is positive as it signals

say goodbye and hello.




France - République Française Nicole van Beek

France is a middle class country, the largest in Europe. The French are nationalistic and patriotic. The quality of life is very important to the French and will never be forgotten. Family ties are also very important to the French. When in business, the French will work hard, they are very hierarchical and there is a strong leader at the top. The French education system is a powerful tool for unifying the country. Relations in France are seen as equal, but different.

Arms akimbo

Eye contact

In France this sign means “keep away

The French do not

from me”.

like prolonged direct eye contact and


staring can be seen

This sign means

as intimidating.

“come here”.

Eyelid pull Closed arms

The eyelid pull

Folded arms are

means “alertness”,

interpreted as taking

but has many

a defensive position;

variations and in

it can also mean

France it means “you

that the person is

cannot fool me, I see

disagreeing with the

what you are up to”.

things he hears.

Finger to forehead/ Side of head Eyebrow flash

When putting the

The eyebrow flash has different

finger to the side

meanings. It can be a friendly greeting

of the head, it can

but it can also be a sign of flirtation

have two meanings.

used by men when they see a pretty

It can mean either


“that person is very intelligent” or “that person is crazy”.


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Fingertip kiss

Peace sign

Something that is strongly identified

The V-sign stands for

with the French is the fingertip kiss. It


means “that’s good. That’s great”.

Pointing fingers Hand purse

Finger pointing is a

Is seen as a request

way to give direction.

for clarity. With the

Another meaning can

hand purse gesture,

be a threat.

the hand asks precise information from the

Sitting positions

other party. The hand

In France it is not polite to put your

purse can also have another meaning.

legs onto any furniture when sitting.

When putting the hand towards the

Crossing legs knee-knee, ankle-knee

mouth it means “I am hungry”.

and ankle-ankle is common in France.



When greeting

This means that

someone French

everything is okay.

shake hands. It can be seen as a “hello”.

Waving Waving means “hello”


and “goodbye”. It can

French men have to bow low over a

also ask someone’s

woman’s hand without touching it. If it

attention meaning “no!”

is more than a polite meeting, the hand

or “help!”.

can be kissed.

Winking Nodding and shaking head

As is the meaning

As in most countries, nodding the head

amongst most

up and down means “yes” and shaking

Europeans, winking

the head back en forth means “no”.

with one eyelid signifies some shared

Okay sign


This sign has the meaning of “zero” or “worthless” in France. 83


Germany - Bundesrepublik Deutschland Jasmijn Camping

Germany has nearly 82 million inhabitants and is one of the larger countries in Europe. Germany has the largest economy within the European Union and is one of the major trade partners for countries within Europe. In fact, it is the second largest export partner in the world. However, even though Germany is doing well, it has many scars left from WWII. After the war, in 1945, Germany was divided into two states, East Germany and West Germany. In 1990 the country was reunified, but the Germans are sometimes still hostile to each other over what happened decades ago.

Arm raise


This gesture stems from WWII when the

This gesture can be

German Nazis revived it. The action of

used with one finger

the gesture is a raised arm with a flat

or the whole hand. It

palm showing. It was used as a formal

is simply a way to ask

salute between Nacional Socialistic

someone to come over.

party members.

Beard grow Nowadays, this gestures is forbidden by

This gesture is often used when

law in Germany and punishable with

someone tells a ‘boring’ tale during

a maximum five years prison sentence.

a meeting or a regular conversation.

However, Neo-Nazi political groups are

The action of the gesture is moving

still using it, but the majority of the

the hand up and down underneath the

German population find it extremely

chin. It means “This is so boring, I could

offending as it reminds them of a dark

grow a beard while listening to this”.

period in German history, which they would rather forget. And besides like

Chin rub

stated earlier it is illegal.

When having a meeting where someone is telling something

Arms akimbo

unbelievable, Germans tend to rub their

Arms akimbo is generally seen as a

chin, which means that they do not

‘negative’ gesture because it feels as if

believe it.

someone wants to distance themselves. It is best not to use this while presenting or talking in large groups. 84

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Chin scratch

Finger to forehead

While the chin rub is a harmless gesture,

This says that

the chin scratch can be quite insulting

someone is “crazy”

to Germans. With this gesture the chin

and “stupid”.

is scratched with the forefinger and the

Foreigners have to

middle finger, just below the mouth.

keep in mind that

With this gesture the “I do not believe

this sign is extremely

it”, becomes an insult with the meaning

insulting and one can receive a fine if a

“You are talking rubbish”.

police officer sees the sign.

Elbow tap In some countries the elbow tap means

Finger to side of the head

that someone is sneaky or mean. In

This has the

Germany it bluntly means that someone

meaning of being

is stupid.


Eye contact

Fists dip

While doing business

The Germans wish people good luck

eye contact is a sign

while making a fist where the thumb is

of sincerity.

hidden within, while giving the fists a small jerk downwards.

Eyelid pull By pulling the eyelid

Folded arms

downwards, the

This is a sign of

Germans mean that

saying that one feels

they do not believe

defensive. It is often

someone. The

unknowingly done

gesture is sometimes

when someone is

used as a joke, and then it means that


they know what someone is doing.

Forefingers scrape Finger click

This is an insult. When Germans scrape

When someone clicks his or her fingers

their forefingers they mean to say that

it means that someone has to come

someone has done something wrong.

over. It is quite similar to beckoning, only more urgent.



Hand rotate

Peace Sign

When Germans raise their hand beside

The ‘V’ stands for

their head and rotate it back and forth,

victory. German

they are saying that they think that

youngsters also tend to

something is not right.

give each other “peace” as a sign of friendship. It


can also be seen as the

In business and in

number two.

private situations, people from

Pointing finger

Germany shake

It is considered rude to

hands when they

point to someone. Germans

meet or say farewell.

use this gesture mostly if they are angry with


someone or accuse others.

Germans kiss each other one time on the cheek when they are friendly. It is

Shoulders shrugging

hardly done in business and mostly in

In Germany shrugging shoulders means

private life.

that they do not know something.

Nodding and shaking the head

Thumbs- up

When nodding the head a German

If someone puts

says “yes”, when shaking the head a

their thumb-up, they

German says “no”.

mean to say that everything is okay.

Okay sign

When someone puts

While in most

their thumb-down, they mean the exact

countries this sign

opposite, which it is not okay.

means that everything is okay, in Germany


this sign resembles

The Germans use this sign to say both

something sexual and

“hello”, and “goodbye”.

is therefore an insult.

Winking Germans wink as a way of flirting, but they can also wink when they have made a joke. 86

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Greece - Ελληνική Δημοκρατία Jeroen van der Poel, Marta Bankowska

Greece has been a member of European Union since 1981 and with its population of eleven million people it is a relatively small country. Regardless of its size, Greece is considered as the cradle of Western civilization and a place where democracy was born. Greeks are relationship-orientated, a collectivistic society with the highest uncertainty avoidance score (Hofstede), which means that people, in general, do not feel comfortable with changes and they prefer maintenance of long term relationships rather than looking for new business partners. Greek communication style is expressive, emotions are expressed rather openly and maintaining eye contact is essential to become trustworthy in the eyes of Greek listeners.


Eye Contact

In order to beckon

In Greece eye

someone in Greece,

contact is extremely

ones arm should

important and it

be extended, while the palm faces

is perceived as a

downwards and a scratching motion is

manner to express

done with the fingers.

ones interest as well as a sign of courtesy. Therefore,

Eyebrow flash

it is essential to maintain it, especially

If a person is raising and lowering his

while one is attempting to build a close

eyebrows rapidly once, it indicates that

relationship with the Greeks and/or

he wants to communicate a negative

conduct business with them.

response, “no”. Furthermore, this gesture is frequently accompanied with

Eyelid pull

the Greek head toss which on his own

Pulling an eyelid in

has got the same denotation.

Greece means that a person is alert and that he/she does not believe in everything that another person is saying. 87


Hand purse

great extent on the occasion and on

The hand purse

the region. In Crete a man kisses his

gesture conveys the

female friend as a way of greeting or

message “good” and

expressing gratitude, but it is highly

it is done with the

unlikely that he will kiss a man unless

hand facing upward

they are close friends.

and the thumb and fingers in contact at the tip.

On the contrary, in Athens close friends of both sexes kiss upon arrival and

Hand ring/ Okay sign


The meaning of hand ring gesture in Greece

Lip touch

differs significantly

Lip touch gesture is done by touching

from the one, which is

the protruded lower lip a few times

widespread in North

and it looks as asking a person to

America and the

keep silence, but in fact, it has got an

vast majority of European countries.

opposing meaning: “I want to talk to

The hand ring gesture does not mean


that everything is in order but, on the contrary, is rather an offensive sign

Nodding and shaking the head

implying that either another person is

In some parts of

homosexual or he is effeminate.

Greece nodding the head up and


down means “no”,

Handshake is a

while shaking the

common gesture in

head back and forth

Greece reflecting

signals “yes”. Affirmative responses

warmness and

can be also communicated by the

friendliness of the

“head roll” or “head wobble” gesture,

Greek society. It is

which is commonly misinterpreted by

essential to remember that the hands

foreigners as “no”. This may lead to

are supposed to be shaken firmly and

miscommunication, as the foreigners

good eye contact should be maintained

sooner or later learn the Greek gesture

while this gesture is performed.

but the locals may not be aware of the fact that the foreigners have altered

Kisses A kiss is a sign of closure and in which situation people kiss, depends to a 88

encoding of yes/no message.

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Peace sign (Palm facing inwards)


Hand V-sign with a palm

performed in a different

facing inwards means

manner than the

victory as well as “we

majority of Europeans

are first”.

are familiar with. Thus,

Waving for a goodbye is

in order to wave in

The fig

the Greek way, a person should wave

The fig gesture is performed

with his arm extended, palm up and

by closing the hand and

all the fingers curling back and forth

pushing between the first

towards himself. Since the Greek

and the second finger.

waving resembles the “come back”

In this case the thumb

gesture employed in the United States

represents the inserted

and many European countries, there is

penis, therefore, the hand fig is

a high likelihood that this gesture will

perceived as an obscene gesture.

be mistaken by foreigners visiting the Hellenic Republic.

Thumbs-up Like in the vast majority of European


countries and the United States, the

As a passionate

thumbs-up gesture has got positive

society, Greek men

connotations and it indicates that

express their feelings

“everything is ok”.

quite openly, for instance, by winking

However, people visiting Greece should

in the presence of a

be aware of the fact that thumbs-up

pretty woman.

gesture is perceived as a sexual. As a consequence, using this gesture to catch a lift will not lead to a successful hitchhike in Greece.



Hong Kong Lucy Duijf, Chantal Vruggink, Lieveke Heijn

Hong Kong is located at the south-eastern coast of China mainland and is about 1,100 square kilometres. Hong Kong consists of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and 235 outlying islands. The currency of Hong Kong is the Hong Kong dollar (1 dollar = 0,09 euro). Hong Kong has got about 6.9 million people and very sophisticated and cosmopolitan with a mixture of Asian and European cultures. Although 98% of Hong Kong’s inhabitants is Chinese, they view themselves as different from mainland Chinese. People from Hong Kong are westernized, highly educated and very motivated. Hong Kong culture is influenced by Confucianism and relationships and status are highly valued.


Pointing fingers

The way to beckon

Pointing with an

someone in Hong

index finger is used

Kong is to extend

only for animals and

the arm, palm down and make a

is considered very

scratching motion with the fingers.

rude in Hong Kong. The correct way is to


point with the hand open.

It is usual to shake hands with everyone


upon meeting and

Winking at someone

leaving. A Western

is considered a very

handshake is firmer

rude gesture in

than Hong Kong

Hong Kong.


Hugs and kisses Hugging or kissing is not considered as greeting ways, since people in Hong Kong are very much more reserved in nature, they consciously avoid any form of physical touch. 90

World without words

India Lucy Duijf, Chantal Vruggink, Lieveke Heijn

India is a former British colony, which became independent in 1947. Right now, it is the seventh largest and the second most populous country in the world with 1,2 billion inhabitants. New Dehli is the capital of India and Mumbai the largest city. The official languages are Hindi and English. The most important religions are: Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. Indian culture is known for its variety in religion and social levels. Another important aspect of Indian culture is tradition and Indians are considered by some historians as the oldest living civilization on earth.


Head touching

Beckoning someone

The head is considered as the most

with your palm

important and holy part of your body.

upward is seen as

Therefore, touching someone’s head is

insulting in India. If

not acceptable. Even patting a child on

you want to draw a person towards

the head will be considered as rude or

you, you can beckon in a scratching


motion with your palm down and fingers together.

Handshake Always give and

Foot show

receive handshakes

Feet and especially shoes are considered

with your right

as unclean in India. Always apologise if

hand. The use of

you accidently touch someone with your

one’s left hand is

feet or shoes. Showing someone the

considered rude and

bottom of your feet is seen as extremely

impolite in India. People use their left

rude and offensive. It is common to

hand for sanitary purposes, thus using

take of your shoes when entering a

the left hand is considered as unclean

shop or someone’s home.

and is to be avoided at all time; always use the right hand.





Staring at someone is okay, in

Do not wink or

contradiction to most Western cultures.

whistle at a woman

Staring at people, things, or objects is

in India, both

permitted. Indians are used to stare

are considered as

at strangers so do not get angry when

rude. The wink is

people will stare at you on the streets.

considered as an invitation for sex and being impolite,


Also keep in mind that Indian people

rude, or extremely direct towards

find foreigners extremely interesting

women and is considered as very poor

and triggers their curiosity.


World without words

Indonesia - Republik Indonesia Lucy Duijf, Chantal Vruggink, Lieveke Heijn

Indonesia in locates in south-eastern Asia, between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and has 33 provinces with over 238 million people. Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation and is currently the largest Islamic nation. The capital city is Jakarta which is located on the island Java and Bahasa Indonesian is the official language. The Indonesian culture is influenced by various religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and the Islam. The country has huge diversity on cultures and has about three hundred different ethnic groups. Families structures are still very traditional and people will define themselves according to their ethnic group, family or background.


Pointing fingers

Beckoning with a

Pointing at

finger is considered

something using

rude in Indonesia. It

the index finger is

is more acceptable to beckon with the

impolite in Indonesia.

palm down, with fingers or whole hand

When pointing,


Indonesians will point with the thumb extended, instead the index finger.

Handshakes When meeting

Sitting positions

someone for the first

When sitting in Indonesia it is important

time in Indonesia,

to keep both feet on the floor. Sitting

offering a hand

with good posture and both feet on

to be shaken and

the floor is seen as a sign of respect. It

slightly nodding

is important not to face or point the

the head is common. When shaking

bottom of the feet at another person.

hands upon greeting and leaving it is usual to always use the right hand. The handshake is limp and lasts ten to fifteen seconds. Men do not offer a handshake to an Indonesian woman and most Indonesians give a slight bow or place their hands on their heart after shaking hands. 93


Italy - Italia Jeroen van der Poel, Marta Bankowska

Italian Republic is a founding member of the European Union which with a population of sixty million is the sixth most populous country in Europe. It is known for its delicious cuisine, ancient history, beauty, but also its corruption and multiple scandals involving previous premiere mr. Silvio Berlusconi. Italy is a relationship-orientated country, which denotes that trust needs to be gained in order to become successful in business with Italians. Moreover, foreigners should be aware that Italian make an extensive use of gestures and it appears they would not be able to communicate without gesticulating. It is also significant to mention the fact that Italy belongs to the touching-countries category, thus physical contact is common and the amount of touch often implies the strength of a relationship.

Arms Akimbo

Additionally, Italian men use a cheek

Arms akimbo which entails the hands

screw as a sign of interest, for instance,

on the hips, signals the same message

when they see an attractive woman

in Italy as it does across the world, that

passing by.

is: aggression, resistance, impatience, dominance and other related feelings.

Chin flick This gesture is executed by dragging

Belly cut

the fingertips along the chin and

The flat hand, with the palm facing

while reaching the end of the chin the

downwards, cutting rhythmically into

fingers are flicked into the air. The chin

side of the stomach is known as belly

flick has got a different meaning in

cut and signals that a person is hungry.

northern Italy than in the part that was colonised by the Greeks. In northern


Cheek screw

Italy chin flick is a sign of an aggressive

Cheek screw, which is performed by

disinterest, while in southern part this

extending the index finger and then

gesture is used as a modified version

rotating or turning it into the cheek, is a

of Greek head tilt, conveying the same

form of praising usually food, especially

negative messages like “no”,

pasta which is cooked “al dente” (tasty).

“I cannot”, or “There is nothing”.

World without words

Eye contact

they have the same meaning: “Are you

It is essential to

crazy?. Forehead tap is done either

maintain eye contact

like a salute by tapping the hand to

with Italians while

the forehead or by placing forefinger

talking, otherwise

and thumb together and tapping

they may think

them a few times on the center of

that a person is not

the forehead; this variation is used

reliable. Moreover, direct eye contact

especially in the Neapolitan region and

is perceived as a way of expressing

the message behind it is: “You have

interest, thus lack of it may be the

a brain so small that I could hold it

signal indicating boredom.

between my thumb and forefinger”.

Eyelid pull

Finger to side of the head

Pulling an eyelid

Pressing the index

with an index

finger repeatedly

finger conveys

to the side of the

alertness and it can

forehead is a gesture

be translated as:

which shows that

“watch out” or “pay

somebody is either


crazy or mad.

Fingertip kiss

Folded arms

This gesture is not widespread in the

Folded arms,

whole Italy, but only on two of its

depending on the

islands, Sicily and Sardinia, where it is

context, can signal

used as a form of salutation. What is


more interesting is that fact that it may


be used as a welcoming or a farewell

insecurity or closed-

gesture and in order to maintain its


meaning as a salutation it is essential to aim the gesture at the person being

Forefinger kiss


This gesture, which is used in Southern Italy, is done by kissing the tip of the

Finger to the forehead

finger. It signals that somebody is

There are two

of praising or greeting.

offering another person a kiss as a form

versions of this gesture in Italy, still 95


Nodding the head

Hand purse

Nodding the head up and down

The hand purse

indicates “yes”, whereas shaking it back

(fingers gripped and

and forth signals “no” in Italy. However,

the hand jerked)

in a few regions of Italy, which were

is a typical Italian

colonized by the Greeks (Sicily and

gesture and is used

southern parts of the country), head

to make speech

toss gesture (tilting head vigorously

more expressive, emphasised and to

backwards) is employed to say “no”.

punctuate it.

Hand beckon/ Hand waving

In addition, this gesture signals a query

Hand beckon means

and is employed when a person is

“come over here”

irritated by somebody else’s imprecision

and is done with

and lack of clarity. This gesture often

the extended arm,

comes together with phrases such as:

palm down and the hand, which makes

“What do you want” (Che vuoi?),”What

sweeping downward movement. This

are you doing” (Cosa fai?) and,

gesture can be easily mistaken with

depending on the context, it may be

one signalling “goodbye”, which is

used as a straight-forward question.

called “the Italian wave”, in which the palm faces upwards and the fingers are

However, the most commonly it is

curled back and forth.

applied as a vigorous action which is taken in the presence of annoying

Hand flick-up


The flat hand flick is done by flipping right hand upwards and it is a popular


worldwide gesture meaning “Get lost”

Cheek kiss is a form of greeting

or “Go away”.

between female as well as male friends. However, cheek kiss in Italy is more


considered as “kissing the air” which is

Handshake is used

making a sound of kissing and touching

while: meeting,

another person’s cheek.

departing, congratulating someone and binding a contract. The application of this gesture in Italy does not differ from those used elsewhere. 96

World without words

Nose tap

Pointing fingers

Nose Tap gesture is executed by tapping

Pointing the index

the side of the nose a several times with

finger upwards means

a vertically hold forefinger. It has got a

“one moment please”

few meanings such as:

(un momento).


Additionally, this

A friendly warning to alter.

gesture is utilised prior to speaking

Cleverness, shrewdness (in this

“May I have your attention?” or posing

context nose tap is used in Southern

a question.


Praying hands Okay sign

Hands pressed together (as

The okay gesture is

in praying) and going up

used in Italy in the

and down in front of body

exact the same way as

denotes that somebody does

in the United States,

not believe in what another

and it also conveys

person is saying.

the same message that “everything is o.k.”

Thumb jerk Jerking the stiff thumb

Peace sign

upwards for a few times

Hand V-sign with a palm

has got negative meaning

facing forwards indicates

in Sardinia where it is

victory and it may be used

seen as a sexual insult.

in a variety of contexts (e.g. military, politics,


sports and individual).

Winking with one eyelid indicates having some shared secret, although winking at a women is meant as a sign of interest and appreciation of their beauty.



Japan - 日本 Maxime Hoeflaken, Suzanne Raggers, Robin de Jong

Japan,日本 Nihon or Nippon; formally 日本国 Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, literally, the State of Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin”, which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”. As a major economic power, Japan has the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP. Japan is also the world’s fourth-largest importer and fourth-largest exporter. Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military force in self-defense and peacekeeping roles. After Singapore, Japan has the lowest homicide rate (including attempted homicide) in the world. According to both UN and WHO estimates, Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world. According to the UN, it has the third lowest infant mortality rate. Almost eighty percent of communication is non-verbal in Japan. Japanese are known for showing almost no emotion. Anger, fear, sadness are rarely showed by the Japanese, especially in public. This is considered to be a sign of weakness.


adopted the Western practice of

To beckon someone,

shaking hands, but with a light grip

one should put his

and with eyes averted, because a firm

or her arm out, palm

grip suggests aggression and direct eye

down, and make

contact is considered a bit intimidating.

a scratching motion with the fingers

There are many well-travelled Japanese

towards them.

who are carefully studying Western ways and therefore may surprise one


Bows and handshakes

with a firm grip and direct eye contact.

The graceful act of bowing is the

To show respect for their customs, it

traditional greeting for the Japanese.

would flatter them to offer a slight bow

However, the Japanese have also

when being introduced.

World without words

Exchanging business cards


The simple act of

The Japanese find it difficult voicing

exchanging business

an outright“no”to a question or

cards is more

statement. In fact, as they listen to

complex in Japan

someone speaking, they may nod their

because the business card represents

head as if agreeing but do not take this

not only the person’s identity but also

as agreement.

the station in life. Here are some tips: •

The business card is held with both

Open mouth

hands, between the thumbs and

Displaying an open


mouth is considered

It is extended forward in a respectful

as rude in Japan.

gesture with the printing pointed

That is one reason

toward the other person. A slight

many Japanese,

bow is made at the same time;

especially the

The Japanese will take the card,

women, cover their mouths when

again with both hands and a

giggling or laughing.

small bow, and then read the card

• •

carefully. This may be followed by

Okay sign

another slight bow;

The okay sign in Japan

After this sequence, the Western

may be interpreted as

handshake may occur;

the signal for money,

When Westerners take the business

probably because of

card from a Japanese, they should

the circular shape

avoid checking it casually and

formed by the index

quickly tucking it into a coat or

finger and thumb, which suggests

shirt pocket. They have to look at

the shape of a coin. For example, a

it carefully, then place it on the

Japanese may make a purchase at a

table in front of them for further

food counter and then flash this gesture


to signal “Give me my change in coins.”

Avoid writing notes on the back of the card. This is considered to be


disrespectful towards something

Among the Japanese, smiling often

that represents a person’s identity.

can cover several emotions: happiness, anger, confusion, apologies or sadness.

Presenting a gift should happen in the same way. 99


Toasting Toasting is quite common in Japan. It is a simple action of raising the glass and saying one word, Kan-pei, which literally means “Drain the cup.�


World without words

Malaysia - Malaysia Maxime Hoeflaken, Suzanne Raggers, Robin de Jong

Malaysia is split into two areas, the Peninsula, where the majority of the population lives, and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo, shared with Indonesia and Brunei. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is the focal point of business, along with Malacca, Penang, Johor in the south and Kuantan in the east. While the cities are populous, there is a strong rural population as well. Young people may move to the city or abroad to look for work, but will maintain common, with people often travelling a long way to reach them. Different ethnic groups tend to live in separate areas, not by design but by natural process. Thus, each city will have a Chinatown district and an Indian district.


wishes to shake hands she will always

Malays will often

make the first move. Chinese men will

bow shortly when

also always greet one another with a

greeting others.

friendly pat on the arm.

Offering both hands and lightly toughing

Touching someone else’s head

the hands of the

Among the Malays, avoid touching

other person, then bringing the hands

someone else’s head. That is because

to the heart, signifying, “I am greeting

they believe the spirit or soul resides

you from my heart”. Both heads are

over there. Basically, people of the

used when greeting older or senior

opposite sex should avoid always any

people as a sign of respect.

kind of casual touching of one another.

Hands on hips

Right hand

When a Malay stands up with the hands

Between the Malays, the rule while

on hips, it is a sign of anger.

dining is to use only the right hand, because the left hand is used for bodily


hygiene and should not be used for

Most of Asian or

touching others or Mexico

different sexes will shake hands, but not the Malays, and if a Chinese woman 101


Mexico - The United Mexican States Ekaterina Trofimova, Alexandra Petkina

The United Mexican States, commonly known as Mexico, is a federal constitutional republic in North America. Mexico has no constitutional official language at the federal level, but Spanish is used for all public functions, and the country has the largest Spanish-speaking population in the world with almost a third of all Spanish native speakers. A 2010 survey showed Roman Catholicism as the main religion, with 82.7% of the population, while 9.7% belong to other Christian denominations, including Evangelicals, Pentecostals, other Protestant or Reformed.

Arms akimbo

Forearm touching

In public, men should not stand with

Many Mexicans are touch-oriented,

their hands in their pockets. If a man

meaning they may linger over a

stands with his hands on his hips, it

handshake, they may touch the forearm

suggests hostility or a challenge.

or elbow, or they may even casually finger the lapel of the other person’s


suit. All these touches merely signify a

In restaurants, there are three common

willingness to be friendly.

methods for getting the attention of a waiter. The first two are making

Grasping of thumbs

a “pssst-pssst” sound and making a

In some areas of Mexico,

kissing sound with pursed lips. Keep

you may encounter an

in mind that both ways of beckoning,

unusual addition to the

although common, are considered

handshake where, after

slightly impolite, thus not appropriate

gripping the palm, the

in a business context.

two people slide their hands upward to grasp each other’s

A third, and more polite gesture, is to lift your arm and signal with your hand.



World without words

Handing over objects

After the second or third meeting,

When passing an object to another

Mexican men may begin with or add

person, hand it to him or her, but do

the ‘abrazo’, the embrace, along with

not toss it. The same applies when

a few pats on the back. Women friends

handing over change; do not put it on

will embrace lightly and kiss a cheek.

the counter but place it in the hand.

Indicating height Handshakes

When gesturing to indicate the height

A warm, somewhat

of an animal, Mexicans will extend

soft handshake

the arm out, palm downward, at the

is the customary

designated height. This should not be

greeting among

used for the height of people however.

both men and

Instead, Mexicans will use a raised index

women. Men should


let the woman make the first move toward handshaking.



The Netherlands - Nederland Imara Louwe

The Netherlands is a country situated in the west of Europe and shares borders with Germany and Belgium. Holland is a geographically low-lying country as 25% of its landmass is located below sea level. 21% of the population lives below sea level and 50% is located less than one meter above sea level. In other countries Holland is called ‘The Low Countries’. For example, in Germany Holland is called ‘Niederlande’ and in France, ‘Les Pays-Bas’. In foreign countries, Holland is known for their Delta works, wooden shoes and liberal drug policy.

Eyebrow flash

Eyelid pull

An eyebrow flash in Holland can be

When a Dutchman

interpreted in different ways. People

pulls his eyelid, he

flash their eyebrows when they are

means be alert. This

greeting another person or when

is a specific gesture

they are flirting with someone. When

for Holland. When

flirting, the eyebrows flash quick and

a Dutchman makes

when greeting, the eyebrows flash slow.

this gesture, indirectly he says ‘Watch out’. However, it can also indicate that

Eye contact

what is said by the person should not

Making eye contact

be taken too literally or is not the entire

in Holland is very

story, as in “you know what I mean”.

normal. It is rude to stare at someone,

Finger to the forehead

but short eye contact

When a Dutchman

is fine for example

puts his finger to his

when looking at someone while they

forehead he means

are shopping.

the other person is crazy. In Holland they use this gesture especially to say the other person is crazy.


World without words

Finger to the side of the head

Pointing finger

Tapping to the

Pointing the index

side of the head in

finger in Holland

Holland means that

is for indicating a

the other person is

direction. However,

very intelligent and

pointing at people


is considered inappropriate

Handshake When doing

Size measurement

business in Holland,

In Holland the little finger erect gesture

the handshake is

means someone is very thin or he has

normal practice.

a small penis. This gesture is not used

It will be a solid

a lot.

handshake. There are no differences between shaking

Thumbs up

hands with men or women.

In Holland the thumbs up gesture


means okay.

A kiss on the cheek is a gesture for a friendly greeting. When people in


Holland visit each other they kiss three

When a Dutchman

times alternately on each cheek. This is

waves his hand it means

typical Dutch. In other countries most of

he is greeting someone.

the people kiss two times on the cheek

When he waves his hand

when they visit each other.

in a restaurant he shows the waiter he wants to

Open arms

order something.

Open arms means offering someone a hug or requesting a hug from someone.


Dutch people only hug people they

An eyewink in

know very well.

Holland means collusion in a funny kind of way. Most of the time it is a sign there is a little secret between the person who winks and the person who is winked at. 105


Nigeria - Federal Republic of Nigeria Jeroen van der Poel, Marta Bankowska

Nigeria is located in the West of Africa at the Atlantic Ocean between Benin on the Westside and Cameroon on the Eastside. Its population holds 152.000.000 million Nigerians and they became independent from the United Kingdom in 1960. Nigeria is a Federal Republic and is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups and holds 36 states and 774 local governments. Although these ethnic groups have a wide variety of culture, languages and religion the Nigerians all have one thing in common, they are extremely relationship oriented. Business will only take place once there is enough time invested in building a relationship in which a high level of trust is gained. Nigerians have a wide range of communication styles, since the Muslims have a more conservative style and the non-Muslims have a more direct or Western way of communicating. Overall Nigerians will stand very close to a person when they talk to him or her, the touching of ones arm or holding hands for a longer period is very common.


Eye contact

In some ethnic groups important guests

Many will not have

can be greeted or welcomed with

direct eye contact,


because they want to show their respect


for the other person.

Waving all fingers

Direct and long eye

together with the

contact can only take place once there is

palm facing down

a long and solid relationship, otherwise

performs the “come over here� sign in

it may be interpreted as intrusive.



World without words

Eye wink

Shaking hands

When Nigerians wink

Shaking hands is a common way to

to their children it is

greet each other in Nigeria, if the

because they want

relationship is good they will hold

them to leave the

hands for a longer period of time. Most

room when guests

Muslims will not shake hands with


members of the opposite sex.

Okay sign


Making a circle with

In most of the

your point finger and

Western countries

thumb makes the okay

the okay sign is a

sign in Nigeria.

“thumbs up�, but in Nigeria this is a very

Peace sign

offensive sign.

One should avoid making the peace sign because this is vulgar and very disrespectful.

Pointing In Nigeria, pointing the sole of the foot to another person is seen as a sign of disrespect.



Philippines - Republika ng Pilipinas Maxime Hoeflaken, Suzanne Raggers, Robin de Jong

The Philippines was the sole Spanish possession in Asia, a period that lasted about 377 years. Following this, the country was an American unincorporated territory for 37 years. Both episodes have had a profound influence on Filipino culture today, creating a nation of people who identify ethnically as Malay but speak a language peppered with Spanish words and demonstrate a penchant for all things American. The business culture is essentially Western and the Filipinos, talkative and demonstrative, appear almost Western. Conversely, other aspects of their culture are distinctly Asian. These include their group-orientated culture, the importance of family and concept of “face”.



The European or

Shaking someone’s

American way of

hand is a friendly

beckoning would

and informal way to

be curling the index fingers back and

greet someone, men

forth. This is an impropriate gesture

and women. People

in the Philippines. As this would be

let children know to

mentioned as insulting, extend the arm,

initiate this gesture to show someone to

palm down, and move the fingers in

be respectful.

a scratching move as this would be a better way of beckoning.

Hands on hips Filipinos recognise this gesture by

Eyebrow Flash

seeing someone with his hands on his

Eyebrow Flash is a common gesture,

hips. This sign means being angry or

which Filipinos use a lot. This is a quick

challenging someone.

lifting of the eyebrow(s) and could be used to indicate agreement.


World without words

Poland - Polska Jeroen van der Poel, Marta Bankowska

Poland is the ninth largest country in Europe and one of the few who has been increasing in its significance mainly due to economic growth. Polish society is young and ambitious, rather hierarchical and relationship orientated. These factors have got a large impact on how business is conducted, mainly through communication, which is the major tool to establish a feeling of trust and achieve satisfying results. Poland, similarly to its neighbours such as Germany and Czech Republic, does not belong to one of the “touching” countries. It denotes that frequently there is no casual body contact with the exception of very close friends and, what is more particular to the Polish, people stand about an arm’s length from each other while having a conversation. Poles use gestures quite moderately and most of the gestures such as the “o.k.” gesture, “thumbs-up” and “thumbing the nose” are the most commonly utilised ones. Nonetheless, visitors ought to be aware that some of the gestures are used in a different context and their meaning may differ from the most widespread one.

Arms akimbo

Eye contact

Standing with the hands on the hips

In Poland it is

with elbows bowed outwards is known

important to

as arms akimbo. In Poland this gesture

maintain eye contact

has got mainly negative implications

while proposing a

such as impatience, aggression and is a

toast and during

way of demonstrating dominance.

conversation, as it facilitates the process of building a



The “come over here” gesture

Eyelid pull

is performed

The eyelid pull,

in the manner which is widespread

which is understood

throughout Europe and in many Latin

as pulling a corner

American countries- the arm ought to

of one eye with

be extended, palm faces downwards

the index finger,

and a scratching motion is made with

expresses distrust

the fingers.

and disbelief. This gesture is especially 109


popular among Polish youngsters

situations in which the hands are

and sometimes it is accompanied by a

shaken are introductions, meeting

phrase: “I would believe you if saw a

someone for the first time that day and

tank in my eye.”

before departures. Women are greeted in the same way men are, but men

Finger to side of the head

should wait until women extend their hands first.

Putting a finger to a forehead means that

Holding thumbs

a person is crazy.

Poles do not cross their fingers as a sign of wishing somebody a good luck,

Flicking fingers against your neck

instead of this they hold their thumbs,

Poles are known

to be more specific this gesture is done

of their alcohol

with two fists and thumbs tacked inside.

consumption and this is closely related


to the reason why

Kissing somebody’s

they have created a

cheek three times (a

gesture to invite somebody to join for

number related to the

a drink, flicking a few fingers against

Trinity) is a popular

ones neck. This gesture is not perceived

way of greeting with

as a rude one, but a proper attention

friends and relatives. Some Polish

should be taken while using this sign

males, especially the older ones, may

since it is used only among very close

kiss the hand of a woman in order to

friends and considered disrespectful and

welcome her. However, this gallant

rude in a business context where a close

Polish tradition has been declining in

relationship yet has to be established.

popularity and foreigners are expected not to copy this behaviour as it may be

Folded arms

interpreted as disrespectful.

In Poland, folding ones arms is interpreted as being angry with

Nodding and shaking the head


In Poland, these gestures have got the same meaning as in the Western


countries, nodding the head up and

Shaking hands is a

down signals “yes”, while shaking

widely used manner

it back and forth implies a negative

of greeting and


the most common 110

World without words

Okay sign

Thumbs- up

Like in the U.S.A.

The thumbs- up

and the vast

gesture signs

majority of Western

that everything is

European countries,

“going fine” or that

the okay sign means

somebody is “doing good”, but it can

that everything is fine.

be also used so as to stop a car while hitchhiking.

Peace Sign The peace sign indicates

The fig

peace, victory and is also

The fig belongs to one of

frequently employed

the most confusing gestures

in connotation with

due to the fact that it has

the Solidarity Labour

got a variety of meanings

Movement which members used the

ranging from good luck to

peace gesture as the way to express

sexual signals. In Poland this gesture is

their power.

called “figa” and it denotes “nothing” or signals a refusal of aiding. Foreigners

Pointing finger

visiting Poland should bear in mind that

Pointing finger is a

this gesture is rather a rude one and it is

gesture employed to

not used in business environment.

point at something or somebody. By


some Poles it may

A hand wave is a gesture

be seen as a rude gesture, so it is

that is used in order to

recommended to avoid it.

say goodbye.

Shoulders shrugging


Shoulders shrugging is a common

When a person

gesture which indicates that a person is

blinks his eye, it

in a problematic situation and he does

means that he finds

not know how to solve it. Furthermore,

somebody attractive

it is also a sign of carelessness and lack

and he wants to flirt

of interest.

with that person. However, little children commonly use this gesture and in this context it does not have any sexual meaning. 111


Russia - Rossija Sandra Langeveld

Russia is the largets country in de the world and it is situated partly in Europe and partly in Asia. It is officially known as the Russian Federation. Russia is ninth largest country when it comes to inhabitants (over a 142 million people). Most of the people live in the European part of Russia, the Oeralarea or in the southwest of Siberia. The rest of Russia has very little inhabitants. Another interesting fact is that in Russia there are nine time zones because it is so widespread. Most people know Russia because of the communism; from 1917 till 1991 it used to be the most import part of the Soviet Union. Nowadays Russia lives according a capitalistic/democratic system. At first it gave more problems than before and their economy rapidly decreased, but lately Russia is showing economic growth and it is becoming a large worldwide competitor again.

Ear Flick

Nodding and shaking head

When a Russian flicks his ears when

In Russia shaking from the left to the

he is speaking it means he dislikes the

right with the head means no and

person he is speaking to.

shaking up and down means yes.

Eyebrow flash

Okay sign

This is just, like in most countries,

This sign has the

a friendly greeting.

same meaning as the thumbs-up sign; ‘up

Finger to forehead

yours’, so it is best not

This means that

to be used.

someone is stupid.

Peace sign Hands on hip

It is a sign for victory.

This means; ‘so what!’

Pointing fingers Kisses

No one should ever

Three kisses on the cheek are a sign of

point a finger at a


Russian because it is seen as very impolite.


World without words



In many foreign

The eyewink can

countries this sign

mean something like

means ‘good’ but

a joke or a shared

in Russia the thumb

secret, but if a man

up sign means ‘up

winks to a woman

yours’ and is better not to be used.

it means she is a prostitute.



South Korea Maxime Hoeflaken, Suzanne Raggers, Robin de Jong

The South Korean culture is surprisingly unified and stable. The population is almost exclusively South Korean, with very little immigration apart from a very small Chinese minority. Some 74% of the population is located in the urban areas and 45% of the population live in apartment blocks. South Korea has a very complex history and over the centuries the people have suffered greatly. As such, they have become stoic in their attitudes and have pride in their toughness and ability to survive the hard times and so they are very proud of their country’s achievements. Their culture follows Confucian teaching and there is strong pressure within the society for conformity to the group. The welfare of the group takes precedence over the individual, which is shown in the employee obedience and loyalty to his or her employer. Nevertheless, Koreans believe very much in democratic and pluralist government where people have freedom of choice and the ability to speak their opinion freely. Social interaction within society is dictated and regulated by rituals and formalities encompassing courtesy and behaviour towards others. South Korea has developed significantly in the last twenty years, opening up its doors to such highly publicised events such as the Seoul Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup Finals. These two events alone have raised general awareness of other cultures and values.


down and make a scratching movement

In Western countries

with the fingers.

it is perfectly normal to put the hand and


arm up, palm toward the face to say

Bowing is the

“come here�. However, in South-Korea

traditional way for

this gesture is used only for calling a

both greeting and

dog. The right way to beckon someone


in Korea is to elongate the arm, palm 114

World without words

Crossed hands

Okay sign

In South-Korea saying no is avoided

It is used in Korea in a

and replaced by crossing the hands

somewhat restricted

to indicate “no” or “that is very

sense, fairly equivalent

difficult”. Another way is to tip the

to “okay”.

head backwards and audibly suck air in through the teeth.

Pouring drinks Foreigners should avoid pouring their

Eye contact

own drinks. It is being done for them,

Friends can make

and they should offer to pour for others

eye contact, but it

too. They should lift up their glass when

is disrespectful for a

receiving a drink, and when they pour

younger person or

for others they should bolster their

someone in a junior

forearm with the other hand.

position to make eye contact with senior or more an older

Sitting positions

person, as it indicates defiance.

As in the most Asian countries, proper posture is important. Sit (or stand)


erectly or squarely. It is strongly advised

Both Korean and

to never cross legs in public, mainly

Western male friends

in front of someone who is older or

mostly greet with

senior in position. In all occasions keep

both a short bow

the hands in sight of the person that is

and shaking hands,

being communicated with.

and sometimes both hands are used to express sympathy or affection. Women do not extend their hands most of the time, above all towards men, but usually nod just a little. The senior person offers shaking hands first most of the time.



Spain - España Sandra Langeveld

Spain is a member of the European Union and it has the twelfth largest economy of the world. It is democratically organised and still has a constitutional monarchy. The country is quite large in size and also contains a lot of little islands. Spain has a catholic origin and fought many wars. Spain has about 46 million inhabitants.


are close friends, men will also hug or

People will use this sign if they need

pet each other on their backs.

something from somebody else because they do not have it their selves.

Nodding and shaking head Like in most countries nodding the head

Fingers to the side of the head

means ‘yes’ and shaking means ‘No’.

When there are two fingers at the

Peace sign

side of the head

This sign means ‘peace’ in

it means someone


is crazy. When the index finger and


thumb are up to each other and they

In Spain this gesture

are coming from aside to the head it

has the same

means; ‘I have had it up to here’.

meaning as in many other countries: that


is great or okay but

When you meet

also one or number one.

someone it is normal to give a handshake


and look each other

When people wave it

in the eyes. Spanish

means ‘ hello’, it is a sign

people give each

to greet each other.

other handshakes every time they see each other.

Winking Winking is mostly


a sign for flirting in

When woman meet they will kiss, even

Spain but it is also a

for professional occasions. When people

sign for a secret or a joke.


World without words

Sudan - ‫ﻥﺍﺩﻭﺱﻝﺍ‬ Jeroen van der Poel, Marta Bankowska

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and holds a population of 40,187,486 and it is located in the North East African Region between Egypt and Eritrea. Arabic is the official language, however there are 597 tribes that speak over four hundred different languages. The majority of the population are Muslim; the second largest religion is Christianity. Sudan is considered to be the most diverse country in the world when it comes ethnic groups; there are two hundred groups that speak over nine hundred languages and dialects. In 1956 the British and Egyptian troops left and Sudan was independent, but since then it has been exposed to many civil wars, which has divided the country tremendously. However Sudan is a high context collectivistic culture and is very relationship oriented. Since Sudan has such a wide variety of cultures there are not many general gestures that can be used, or will be accepted by all tribes and ethnic groups.

Eye contact

Okay sign

The Sudanese

The okay sign in Sudan

consider eye contact

is made by making a

very important,

circle with your point

because it shows

finger and thumb.

them you care. If the relationship is good,


there will be long and direct eye contact.

Never use a finger to call someone and


never point or show

When greeting

the sole of a foot to

someone or saying

someone. This is seen

goodbye, it is

as offensive and disrespectful.

important to perform a hand-

Thumbs- up

shake. A woman

In most of the Western

should initiate a handshake, otherwise

countries the okay sign

the man will not shake her hand. They

is a “thumbs- up”, but

always use the right for greeting and

in Sudan this is a very

the left hand is used for body hygiene.

offensive sign. 117


Thailand Maxime Hoeflaken, Suzanne Raggers, Robin de Jong

Thailand is a kingdom in South-East Asia and its capital city is Bangkok. The name in Thai is called ‘Prathet Thai’, which means ”free country”. The culture of Thailand incorporates cultural beliefs and characteristics indigenous with influences from Animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, China, India and Cambodia.


Left hand

‘Wai’ is the

In Thailand and other Asian countries

traditional way to

the left hand is seen as unclean. So do

greet someone. The

not eat with it. When someone passes

hands are placed

objects, they use both hands.

together and the head nodded in a

Legs crossed – ankle-knee

slight bow. This could mean “hello”,

Legs crossed is a preponderantly male

”thank you”, ”good bye” or even ”I am

gesture. The man is seated and one

sorry”. When performing the ’wai‘, the

ankle will be resting on the knee of the

higher the hands are the more respect

other leg. With this gesture, a man will

you are conveying. But do not raise the

show he is self-assertive relaxed. This

fingertips higher than the face. Also,

gesture is preferred by young males

lower the upper body slightly when

who wish to accentuate their gender.

passing someone, especially a senior or elder person, to show some politeness.

Palms contact Palms contact is a greeting gesture that

Foot show

resembles the ’Western’ handshake. The

A person, sitting or reclining, who is

palms are pressed together with fingers

showing his foot, especially the sole of

pointing upwards, in front of the body

a shoe to his companion is insulting in

with a small bow of the head.

Thailand. Because the bottom of the shoe is the lowest part of the body,

Pointing finger

which is the part that steps in dirt.

Pointing with one finger is considered


Hands in pockets

rude and is only

Keeping hand(s) in

done when pointing

pocket(s) is consi-

to objects or

dered to be impolite

animals, never humans. Us your chin or

in conversation.

incline your head instead.

World without words

Turkey - Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Nicole van Beek

Turkey inhabits over 71 million people and 99% of these people are Muslim. Family ties are important for Turks, thus families often live together until the children leave their homes to get married. Friends and extended family are extremely important for the Turkish people. The best way to do business in Turkey is by becoming friends with the counterpart. Turkish people rarely do business with people they do not now, or do not trust.

Arms akimbo

Eyelid pull

When standing with the hands on the

The person who is

hips and the elbows bowed outward,

using this gesture

this position radiates aggression,

wants to make clear

impatience or even anger.

that he knows what is going on and that

Closed arms

he is not being fooled.

Closed arms often means taking a

Finger to forehead

defensive posture

When tapping with

or disagreeing on

the forefinger on


the centre of the forehead several

Eye contact

times, it means that

Eye contact is in

someone is “crazy”.

Turkey a sign of sincerity.

Finger to side of head

Eyebrow flash

This means that

The eyebrow flash has different

someone is

meanings. It can be a friendly greeting


but it can also be a sign of flirtation used by men.

Hand purse The meaning of the hand purse in Turkey is “good”.




that directly pointing

When people meet,

at someone is seen as

they shake hands.


Try to greet the Turkish counterparts

Sitting positions

with an Islamic

Crossing legs knee-knee and ankle-

greeting like

ankle is common in Turkey.

“Asalamu alaykum” (peace be upon you).

The fig In most countries the gesture

Nodding and shaking head

can have the meaning of a

In most countries nodding the head

children’s game “I’ve got

means “yes” and shaking the means

your nose”. However in

“no”. However, this is not the case

Turkey it is a sexual insult.

in Turkey and basically it is the other way around. Nodding the head up and


down means “no” and shaking the

In Turkey the thumbs-

head back and forth means “yes”.

up gesture is seen as insult. For the

Okay sign

people from Turkey

While in most

it has a sexual meaning. This gesture is

countries the okay

very similar to the thumb-hitch, which

sign means “good”,

is used by roadside hitchhikers to say

this gesture is a sexual

“please give me a ride”. Therefore it is

insult in Turkey. It

preferable to wave with a flat hand to

can be a friendly comment about the

get a ride.

homosexuality of another male or it can be an insulting note.

Waving This means “hello” and

Peace sign


The V-sign means “victory”.

Winking Pointing fingers

This gesture is mostly used in the

Finger-pointing is a way to give an

Western world but increasingly

indicate of direction. Another meaning

widespread, winking is used as a secret

can be a threat. If that is the case then

signal between the winker and the

the forefinger points directly at the

winked-at. It is also used for flirting.

companion, but always keep in mind 120

World without words

United States - The United States of America Ekaterina Trofimova, Alexandra Petkina

The United States (also called the United States of America, the U.S., the USA, America, and the States) is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district. English is the national language. The United States is officially a secular nation; the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and forbids the establishment of any religious governance. The official U.S. currency is the United States dollar.


males rarely hug one another and

Beckoning can be done either by raising

occasionally, men may shake hands

the index finger and repeatedly curling

with the left hand either covering

it in and out, or by raising the hand

the handshake or lightly gripping the

(palm facing inward) and waggling the


fingers back toward the body. Either is acceptable.

Holding hands Probably the only circumstance where

Eye contact

two men may be seen walking in public

Direct eye contact

and holding hands is if they are openly

in both social and


business situations is very important.


Not doing so implies

Because the United States has such

boredom or disinterest.

ethnic diversity, visitors may also occasionally observe people greeting


one another with hugs and cheek-

A firm handshake,

kissing. Certain nationalities have

accompanied by

brought these customs to the United

direct eye contact,

States and continue to practice them,

is the standard

but they are not commonly used.

greeting in the United States.

Pointing fingers

Occasionally, among very good friends

Using the hand

who have not seen one another for

and index finger to

long, women may briefly hug other

point at objects or

women; and men may quickly kiss

to point directions

the cheek of a woman. However,

is perfectly common 121


and acceptable. However, pointing is


sometimes considered rude if done very

Winking in the


United States can signal diverse


messages: flirting,

Americans generally respect queues in


public situations and will form lines in

amusement, or to

an orderly fashion. To shove or push

signal “I am just kidding”.

one’s way into such a line will probably generate both anger and verbal

Other popular gestures


Other popular gestures, such as the okay sign,


“V” for Victory, and

Waving “hello” or “good

“thumbs-up”, are all

bye” is done by exten-

very popular and well

ding the arm, palm facing

known throughout

down, and waving the

the United States.

hand up and down at

The “hook’em horns”

the wrist joint. Another

gesture is associated

variation is to raise the arm, palm

with the state of Texas.

outward, and move the whole arm and

The “hang loose”

hand back and forth like an upside-

gesture is known and

down pendulum. This may be important

used in the state of Hawaii but not

to know because in many other

generally known in the other forty-nine

countries this is a signal for “no”.

states of the United States.

Waving “No” One commonly used hand gesture for signalling “no” is to wave the forearm and hand (palm outward) in front and across the upper body, back and forth.


World without words


Index A



Argentina 74, 75

Denmark 31, 79, 80, 81

Hong Kong 90

Australia 13, 44, 60, 64



Austria 76

Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Irenaus 46

India 30, 31, 41, 91, 92,

Attitudes 19, 29, 114


Erasmus 15 B

Erickson 13

Indonesia 14, 93, 101

Beckoning 54, 74, 76, 77,

Eye contact 12, 25, 62,

Interracial communica-

79, 82, 84, 87, 90,

70, 74, 77, 79, 82,

91, 93, 98, 102,

85, 87, 88, 95, 98,

106, 108, 109, 114,

104, 106, 109, 115,

116, 121

117, 121

95, 96, 97

Bengal 41


Birdwhistell, Ray 24, 33

Finland 52

Body language 22, 24,

France 14, 42, 48, 52, 82, 83, 104

26, 33, 34, 62

J Japan 53, 56, 98, 99, 100 Jorio, Andrea Di 48

Brazil 19, 30, 31, 53, 74, 75

cation 28 Ireland 60 Italy 31, 42, 48, 76, 94,

Belgium 48, 52, 104

BRIC countries 30

tion 28 Intra-cultural communi-

G Germany 30, 31, 52, 76,


Bulgaria 14, 15, 41

84, 85, 86, 104,

Kendon, Adam 15

Buren van, Martin 52


Kinesics 33

Gordon W. Hewes 22 Greece 14, 15, 41, 42, 48,

C Charles Darwin 15, 40 Chile 77 China 30, 90, 98, 118 Churchill, Winston 60 Colombia 68 Concise Oxford Dictionary 12 Cross-cultural communication 27 Culture 21, 27


52, 87, 88, 89 Gschwandter, Gerhard 25

M Maheux, Jean Franรงois 17 Malaysia 101 Malta 48 Maurice Merleau-Ponty 12 Mortensen, Kurt W. 25 Multicultural 29

World without words




Netherlands 4, 15, 31,

Saudi Arabia 41

Vietnam 60

60, 104

Socio-cultural 13

New Zealand 60

South Africa 31


Nigeria 56, 106, 107

South Korea 98, 114

Wolff-Michael Roth, Dr.

Non-linguistic body

Space 25, 29, 36, 68, 79

motions 24 Non-verbal communication 12, 17, 22,


Spain 31, 42, 48, 52, 116 Stereotypes 29


Streeck 15, 34

Yugoslavia 41, 42, 48

23, 24, 26, 27, 34, 44, 70


Nugy, A. 64

The United Mexican


Thought patterns 28

Pakistan 64

Thumbs-up 83, 89, 107,

States 102

113, 116, 120

Paralanguage 23 Philippines 108

Tunisia 48, 52

Poland 79, 109, 110, 111

Turkey 14, 15, 41, 48, 52, 119, 120

Portugal 48 Posture 13, 18, 78, 93, 115, 119


Proxemics 25

United Kingdom 30, 52,


United States 30, 31, 48,

60, 106 Quintilian 15

52, 53, 56, 60, 89, 97, 121, 122 United States of America

R Russia 30, 52, 98, 112, 113

30, 121 Université du Québec à Montréal 17 University of Dundee 64


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World without words Holland. (2012). Retrieved 12/18, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands Hong kong. (2011). Retrieved 12/20, 2011, from http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ ce_hk.thm Intercultural management - greece. (2011). Retrieved 12/18, 2011, from http://kwintessential.co.uk/ intercultural/management/greece.html James, J. (2009). The bodylanguages rules (1st Edition ed.) Sourcebooks Inc. Kendon, A. (1972). Some relations between body, motion and speach Pergamon Elmsford. Kendon, A. (2004). Gesture: Visible action as utterance (1st Edition ed.) Cambridge University Press. Kinsey Goman, C. (2008). The nonverbal advantage: Secrets and science of body language at work Berret-Koehler Publishers. Retrieved from Books24x7 Knapp, M. L., & Hall, J. A. (2009). Nonverbal communication in human interaction Cengage Learning. Retrieved from http://books.google.nl/books?id=j5HIIfRUPm0C&pg=PA52&lpg= PA52&dq=eyebrow+flash+is+een+ontdekking+van+Eibl-eibesfeldt&source=bl&ots=Lsw7xNmO3&sig=w72S9qzEDk1WlL9DfpqaGFiPfQA&hl=nl&sa=X&ei=sCHvTr7EHIXOt7xqKII&ved=0CDgQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=eyebrow%20flash%20is%20een%20ontdekking%20 van%20Eibl-eibesfeldt&f=false Kruk, M. (2011). Polish economy defies europe’s woes. Retrieved 12/18, 2011, from http://online.wsj. com/article/SB10001424053111903352704576540482192576572.html Learn italian gestures part one.(2009, The Guardian, Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/ gallery/2009/jul/13/learn-italian-gestures-one Littlejohn, S. W., & Foss, K. A. (2007). Theories of human communication Wadsworth Publishing. Magai, C., & McFadden, S. H. (1995). The role emotions in social and personality development: History, theory and research Springer. Retrieved from http://books.google.nl/books?id=z 93etbzgEjoC&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=In+the+japanese,+the+eyebrow+flash&source=bl &ots=FzAL4hgx1Y&sig=JzXUj78zJSVv_0jXlnBTocY1WL4&hl=nl&sa=X&ei=yVDwTufuE4yEwaP0JyeAQ&ved=0CCUQ6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=In%20the%20japanese%2C%20the%20 eyebrow%20flash&f=false Martin, J. S., & Chaney, L. H. (2008). Passport to success: The essential guide to business culture and customs in america’s largest trading partners Praeger. Retrieved from http://books.google.nl/books?hl =nl&id=7ebtAAAAMAAJ&dq=passport+to+success%2C&q=gesture+winking


Mattock, J., & Bannon, G. (Eds.). (2006). Cross-cultural communication: The essential guide to international bussiness (Revised Second Edition ed.) Kogan Page. Retrieved from http://rps.hva.nl:2061/ toc.aspx?bookid=22635 McNeill, D. (1996). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought (1st Edition ed.) University of Chigaco Press. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of perception (1st Edition ed.) Routledge. Michael, M. (2010). Body language: Legs. Retrieved 12/21, 2011, from http://sapientology.com/tag/leggestures/ Mohan Sharma, V. (2004). Body language: The art of reading gestures and postures Pustak Mahal. Retrieved from http://books.google.nl/books?id=H8Gd6Tiin_MC&pg=PA10&dq=ok+gesture&hl=nl&sa= X&ei=0Cj6TreGKsir-QabnpHVAQ&ved=0CE4Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=ok%20gesture&f=false Moran, R. T., Moran, S. V., & Harris, P. R. (Eds.). (2011). Managing cultural differences: Global leadership strategies for cross-cultural business success (8th Edition ed.) Elsevier Inc. Retrieved from http://rps.hva.nl:2061/toc.aspx?bookid=40158 Morris, D. (1994). Bodytalk a world guide in gestures (1st Edition ed.) Jonathan Cape Ltd. Morris, D., Collett, P., Marsh, P., & O’Shaughenessy, M. (1979). Gestures: Their origines and meanings. the thumb up Bernd Wechner. Retrieved from http://bernd.wechner.info/Hitchhiking/Thumb/ Mortensen, K. W. (2010). The laws of charisma: How to captivate, inspire, and influence for maximum succes (1st Edition ed.) Amacom. Retrieved from http://rps.hva.nl:2307/toc.aspx?bookid=36887 Nagy, E. (2011). Journal of ethology (1st Edition ed.) Springer. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink. com/content/0289-0771/ Nicol, J. (2012). Argentina business etiquette & culture. Retrieved 12/20, 2011, from http://www. cyborlink.com/besite/argentina.htm Nigeria. (2012). Retrieved 12/21, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria OK-sign of the divine king. (2004). Retrieved 12/16, 2011, from http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ sociopolitica/codex_magica/codex_magica24.htm Parr Rud, O. (2009). Business intelligence succes factors: Tools for aligning your business in the global economy (1st Edition ed.) John Wiley and Sons. Retrieved from http://rps.hva.nl:2307/toc. aspx?bookid=31921 130

World without words Perkett, C. (2010). Do hugs belong in business? Retrieved 12/20, 2011, from http://perkettprsuasion. com/2010/03/08/do-hugs-belong-in-business-2/ Philip, C. (2010). Body language dictionary. Retrieved 12/18, 2011, from http://www. bodylanguageproject.com/dictionary/bodylanguage-dictionary-e-eyebrow-flash-eye-direction-eyeflash-energy-displacement-emblems Poecke van, L. (2001). Nonverbale communicatie Garant. Retrieved from http://books.google.nl/books? id=tGWUtaKaGn8C&pg=PA142&lpg=PA142&dq=Eibl-Eibesfeldt,+wenkbrauwen&source=bl&ots=dgUX PAxed-&sig=llHjh0bYKjO28hninJ7074ynMUg&hl=nl&sa=X&ei=LRPvTvkjhID7Bvq0-YkC&ved=0CCsQ6AE wAQ#v=onepage&q=Eibl-Eibesfeldt%2C%20wenkbrauwen&f=false Pohlman, L. (2004). A curricilum guide for secondary school teachers. Retrieved 12/18, 2011, from http://www.outreachworld.org/Files/university_of_pittsburgh/crees_czech_guide.pdf Ritchie Key, M. (1975). Paralanguage and kinesics (1st Edition ed.) Scarecrow Press. Retrieved from Proquest Social Science Journals Russia. (2012). Retrieved 12/20, 2011, from http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rusland San Filippo, M. (2011). Italian hand gestures. Retrieved 12/18, 2011, from http://italian.about.com/od/ italianculture/tp/italian-hand-gestures.htm Schroevers, S. (2006). Interculturele communicatie (1st Edition ed.) Kluwer. Schroevers, S. (2010). DenmarkTMA World. Schroevers, S. (2010). Flightpack france. Unpublished manuscript. Schroevers, S. (2010). Flightpack turkey. Unpublished manuscript. Scudder, R. (2011). Eye contact: What does it communicate in various cultures? Retrieved 12/14, 2011, from http://www.brighthub.com/education/languages/articles/9626.aspx Solusource. Country profile: Denmark. Retrieved 12/17, 2011, from http://www.solusource.com/ tominfo/CountryProfiles/Denmark.pdf Streeck, J. (2009). Gesturecraft, the manufacture of meaning John Benjamins. Taylor, S. (2012). Indonesia business etiquette & culture. Retrieved 12/20, 2011, from http://www. cyborlink.com/besite/Indonesia.htm


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World without words

Picture credits Unless otherwise stated all photographs and illustrations are courtesy of Mats van Soolingen (full page pictures in part two as well as various thumbnails in part three) , Nick Hoekzema (part three), and Miria Regina Goiana Costa - Martens (part three). The cover, sections introductions and most photographs have been conceptualised and/or edited by Stef Lauer. Other photographs were edited by Miria Regina Goiana Costa - Martens. The editors wish to very much thank the following, for their kind permission to reproduce Photographs or graphic illustrations: Illustration cover is courtesy of Diego Bervejillo: http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-illustration18475900-landmarks-around-the-world.php Courtesy Š Sander Schroevers Any inadvertent omissions can be rectified in future editions.


World without words

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Doing the deal, globally Cross-cultural aspects of international business negotiations 2010, HvA minor CCBS ISBN 978-90-79646-04-3

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A Cross-Cultural Compass

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gender egalitarianism

measuring cross-cultural competence

2011, HvA minor CCBS

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World without words The cross-cultural context of gestures in international business communication This first edition of World without words explores the use of communicative gestures from a cross-cultural perspective. Providing you with a comprehensive introduction, and focusing on key areas in the theory and practice of how professionals signal their attitudes internationally. This book is an asset to anyone wishing to advance her or his understanding of cross-cultural communication in the globalised workplace, that today’s business environment has become. This book contains contributions from participants in the elective ‘minor’ course: Cross-Cultural Business Skills, offered by the part-time department of Commercial Economics at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, University of Applied Sciences. The following people contributed: Alexandra Petkina, Anke de Vries, Bart Jan van Wezel, Chantal Vruggink, Christiaan van Oordt, Dwin Snoeks, Ekaterina Trofimova, Elvira Janzweerd, Emad Alishech, Emilio Bamio Ares, Emir Halilovic, Esther Jansma, Felix Prummel, Fouad Sout, Hilletje Hulsman, Ilhame Hajji, Ilona Bloch, Imara Louwe, Jasmijn Camping, Jeffrey Mooij, Jelle Bakker, Jeroen van der Poel, Jimmy Bóné, Joseph Appiah-kubi, Julia Kuzmina, Kai Groefsema, Kiki Walder, Laurens Wijnker, Lieveke Heijn, Loes Tiemes, Lucy Duijf, Maggy Tuijp, Marieke van Meerten, Marijn Ensink, Marta Bankowska, Martine de Best, Mathieu Stijsiger, Max Meijer, Maxime Hoeflaken, Míria Martens Goiana Costa, Mohamed Nabih, Nick Hoekzema, Nicole van Beek, Niek Kuijper, Niels de Wit, Patricia Bakker, Paul Mossman, Robin de Jong, Robin Wilm, Ronald Tai, Rosanne Smit, Rose Botman, Roy Blokker, Sandra Langeveld, Santhuruu Nadesapillai, Sarah Meijer, Sergio Saman, Shaam Nathe, Sharon van Leeuwen, Sheila Lopes Afonso, Simone Timmermans, Stef Lauer, Stefan Alphen, Stefan Boom, Steffan Amende, Suzanne Raggers, Tuanh Lam , Valerie Heijnen, Wartan Rustamjan, Yentl Snoek and Zilla Meekel.

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World without words  

The cross-cultural context of gestures in international business communication.

World without words  

The cross-cultural context of gestures in international business communication.

Profile for steflauer