Body language is a language unto itself and one that people pay far too little attention to in their interpersonal and business relationships. The body has a number of preset nonverbal cues and gestures with very specific meanings as they relate to human interaction. Body language can ultimately be misinterpreted just as any verbal language can. While some body language is universal, certain gestures and symbols carry different meanings in other parts of the world. When working with clients in the entertainment, advertising and marketing industries, we guide them through the highly specific distinctions of their target culture with seamless adaptation and globalization services that break down both verbal and nonverbal barriers to ensure they do not unwittingly offend their audiences.
For example, in traditional Asian cultures where hierarchical societies are more dominant than in the West, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the respect of elders and superiors. In these parts of the world eye contact is not an essential part of a social interaction. As such, an entire conversation can take place with the eyes of the “subordinate” pointed downward as a sign of respect, politeness and deference. The same can be said for many African and Latin American cultures where hierarchal societies are still very much in place, and intense eye contact can be seen as disrespectful and even aggressive and confrontational. Secondarily, physical gestures are another form of nonverbal communication that can easily be taken out of context depending on the country of origin. For instance, in the United States we know the gesture of thumbs up to symbolize the positive sentiment of “all good” or “great” while in countries like Thailand it’s seen as an obscene or even childish gesture. Similarly, the peace sign with the hand turned inward is the equivalent of giving someone the middle finger in Great Britain and Australia.
There are endless body language and global social gestures that can be easily misinterpreted if you aren’t aware of them. Ultimately, as eternal students and teachers of this type of cultural learning, we believe these idiosyncrasies speak to the rich and diverse world we are lucky to be a part of and in service to.