In a world that is increasingly becoming more connected, becoming aware of how body language varies across different cultures can be important to stay respectful to individual’s of different backgrounds when communicating either online or in person. For those who live in Asia, it can be surprising how different Asian culture can be from American culture. In order to be respectful and communicate successfully with others both verbally and with your body language, it’s just as important to learn and understand American body language as it is to improve American English pronunciation.
People from Asian cultures may linger and continue to hold an individual’s hand after a handshake is finished. Most individuals in America only shake hands during an introduction, or as a congratulatory gesture that typically only occurs once per visit and doesn’t linger.
Showing Soles of Feet:
In many Asian countries, showing the soles of feet is considered rude, however Americans don’t often share this view. Depending on the context, showing soles of feet either by placing a bare foot on top of furniture can be inappropriate and rude, while crossing ones legs while barefoot may be unintentional, and a sign that the individual is laid back or relaxed.
In China for instance, giving a thumbs up symbolizes “you are number one” while in America, the same gesture symbolizes “okay” or that you agree with them or are showcasing your approval.
In many Asian countries, unbroken eye contact can be considered aggressive and confrontational since this gesture is a sign of respect for bosses and elders. In America however, frequent eye contact is a sign of confidence and attentiveness and helps an individual come off as engaged and honest.
With international body language considered a language with no words, it’s important to include learning about American body language norms when studying foreign speech and American pronunciation. Educating oneself with international body language can help improve communication and translate a message how you desired it to be conveyed.