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Body Language in Different Cultures

Body Language in Different Cultures
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  • 0:03 What is Body Language?
  • 0:55 Body Language in China
  • 1:25 Body Language in India
  • 2:25 Body Language in England
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Holly DeLuca

Holly has taught special education students and has a master's degree in special education

Different countries and their respective cultures employ different types of body language. This lesson will discuss a variety of body language used in different cultures.

What is Body Language?

While driving in New Zealand, a tourist couple missed a stop sign and were pulled over by the police. When they explained that they were not from the area and had accidentally missed the stop sign, the police offer gave them a warning. The husband was pleased, so he gave the officer a 'thumbs up' gesture. The officer then proceeded to put the man in handcuffs and called for backup. Why, you ask? A thumbs up is seen as a rude gesture in New Zealand!

So what is body language? We can define it as the way people demonstrate their emotions through body movements such as facial expressions, eye contact, and hand gestures. It can even include personal space and the way one dresses. The thumbs up example above illustrates that not all cultures have the same norms when it comes to body language. Let's look at examples of body language in three other cultures.

Body Language in China

In China, when talking with someone who is older than you, you should lower your head and bend slightly to show respect. In addition, people of different statuses in China do not shake hands. Shaking hands is reserved for those who are of the same social status, are friends, or interact as business people. Similarly, it would be easy for an uninformed person to insult someone in China with a simple hand gesture. They would simply need to scrape a finger across their own face. This type of body language is intended to show that they are looking down upon the other person.

Body Language in India

Are you thinking of traveling to India? You might want to brush up on some of the customs regarding body language. The body language of Indian culture has two types of gestures: 'illustrators', are gestures that go along with words, and 'emblems', are gestures that have their own meaning and do not accompany words. For example, when greeting someone, you are expected to use the namaste illustrator, which involves folding the hands in a prayer-like gesture while speaking a greeting.

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