People often mistakenly believe than non-verbal communication is universal; but, in fact, it differs greatly depending on the culture and the nation (Edmonds, 2010). For instance, American culture has certain norms for non-verbal communication. Americans usually stand at arm's length from the people they are talking to. It is expected to maintain an eye contact in order to show the interest a person has toward the speaker. Americans value personal space and rarely touch each other while speaking, but it also depends on the bonds people share.
In some situations, American non-verbal communication can be interpreted as rude or insulting by people who represent other cultures. For instance, in the East, it is considered rude to look at a person while talking to her or him, and it is something Americans have to keep in mind when traveling. Also, the gesture "come here" can be regarded as an insult in some cultures (Jens, n.d.). The same applies to a gesture "OK" which is often used by Americans. It is considered an insult in Brazil, an in Japan, for instance, it means money (Jens, n.d.).
Biological and cultural factors have a huge influence on the way people perceive and understand non-verbal communication. First of all, there are some genetic reactions a person gets which affect his or her non-verbal communication and behavior. Even more, the culture in which the person grows up makes this person accept non-verbal communication within a specific society as something normal and typical. It means that depending on the culture a person grows up in, he or she will judge non-verbal communication viewing one's own cultural example as a golden standard for other communications in different parts of the world. In this case, it is important to remind oneself that non-verbal communication has many similarities among representatives of different countries, but it is still not universal, and it is necessary to learn local characteristics and differences in order to use and understand non-verbal communication well.
- Edmonds, M. (June 14, 2010). How do culturally different people interpret nonverbal communication? HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved from http://people.howstuffworks.com/nonverbal-communication.htm.
- Jens, S. (n.d.). The Culture of Nonverbal Communication in the United States. eHow. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/facts_7430456_culture-nonverbal-communication-united-states.html