Home > The Business World > Questionnaire: Cross Cultural Body Language

Questionnaire: Cross Cultural Body Language

By: Libby Pelham BA - Updated: 16 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
Body Language Gestures Facial

Author Daniel Goleman claimed that 90% of a person’s emotions are expressed through non-verbal means of communication. This can include body language, gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

Yet, these same non-verbal gestures and expressions can have a different meaning depending on the culture. Because the world is becoming more diverse and people from different cultures are interacting more than ever, it is important to know what is and isn’t appropriate and when it may be necessary to avoid certain types of offensive gestures and expressions.


1. In Bangladesh, is the thumb’s up sign a signal of something good or an insult?
2. Shaking hands is an accepted form of greeting in America and Britain, but should one shake a Saudi Arabian woman’s hand upon meeting her?
3. In what countries is the A-Ok gesture considered to be an affront, equivalent to using the middle finger?
4. Is it offensive in the Middle East to point at someone with the index finger as if to call them to come to over?
5. In Europe, the V sign can be changed from meaning “victory” to meaning “shove it” by simply doing what?
6. A smile always means the person is happy, right?
7. In what countries does nodding the head up and down mean “no?”
8. In what culture is it considered offensive to touch the top of one’s head?
9. In American and Britain, when place the hand up with palm towards someone means “stop.” What does it mean in Asian cultures?
10. Is putting hands on hips a sign of confidence?
11. What countries consider eye contact to be offensive?
12. What countries require the most amount of personal space?
13. In what countries are the feet considered unclean and showing the heels considered insulting?
14. In what countries is slouching considered to be rude?


1. It is considered to be insulting. The thumb’s up gesture is also considered rude in Nigeria and Sydney, Australia.
2. No, the touching of a Saudi Arabian woman’s hand by anyone other than her husband is against the Sharia Laws and considered immoral.
3. The A-Ok gesture is considered offensive in Brazil and most Latin American countries, Germany, and Austria. In France it means “zero” and in Japan it means “money.”
4. Yes. It is also considered an insult to do this in Portugal, Spain, Latin America, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. If the index finger must be used to call someone, make sure the palm is down as that is more acceptable.
5. By turning the palm toward oneself. Palm out means “victory,” palm in means “shove it.”
6. Not always. The Japanese often smile when they are confused, angry, or even embarrassed.
7. Bulgaria and Greece.
8. In Asian cultures, particularly Southeast Asia. This is because it is believed that a person’s soul or spirit resides there.
9. It means to ask permission to speak.
10. It is in American and Britain, however, in some Asian countries is it seen as a sign of arrogance. In Mexico, it is seen as a sign of hostility. Putting one’s hands in the pockets in Indonesia is considered rude.
11. In most Western cultures, eye contact is considered a good thing, but in Japan, Latin American countries, and the Caribbean, direct eye contact is considered disrespectful.
12. Americans definitely like their personal space, but Germans and Japanese require even more. Personal space it not as important to those from China, France, Latin American countries, and Saudi Arabia.
13. Middle Eastern countries, China, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, and Korea consider the feet to be dirty and the heels of the feet should never be shown to another.
14. Germany, Sweden, and China consider slouching to not only be rude, but also a sign of poor manners.

For people that travel quite a bit or live in a multi-cultural community, understanding body language and gestures from other countries and cultures can be very important. Without that knowledge, unintentional miscommunication is possible.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
This Q&A were very informative. Avoiding blunders of cultural taboos will come in handy as we travel around the world via the internet. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.
momhip - 4-Jun-11 @ 9:58 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: