Whether you are preparing for a job interview, a meeting with potential clients, or a public speech, you should always remember to dedicate to body language the same care and attention that goes into your words.
However, body language is not always universal and different cultures might perceive things differently. This is why we chose to write a list of the main differences in body languages across cultures:
The most common form of physical greeting around the world is arguably the handshake. However, the modality changes from region to region: western cultures usually privilege a firm and strong handshake, while in Asia it could feel aggressive and people prefer bowing.
Africans often prefer a limp handshake, while in Islamic Countries men only shake hands with women of their family.
Hand gestures are often used to reinforce an idea or feeling, and their meaning varies greatly from country to country. For example, the “ok” sign is regarded as offensive in countries like Greece, Spain, Brazil, and Turkey. The same concept goes for the “thumbs up” gesture, an insult in the Middle East and a sign of a well-executed job in America and Europe.
Intermittent eye contact is a sign of confidence and attentiveness in most western countries. Both looking away and staring continuously are widely seen as inappropriate.
In many Middle Eastern countries, same-sex eye contact is usually prolonged, while eye contact between men and women does not usually go beyond a brief glance.
Asian and African countries see prolonged eye contact as aggressive. These cultures tend to be quite conscious of hierarchy and avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect for elders.
The Far East and Northern Europe are classed as “non-contact” cultures, where physical contact is extremely rare and personal space is considered of great importance.
The opposite goes for Southern Europe, Middle East, and Latin America, where physical contact plays an important role in social settings.
Thailand and Laos have extremely rigid rules with regards to physical contact: touching anyone’s head is prohibited in any circumstance.
The Importance of Body Language in Interpreting
As we have seen, body language is just as rich and diverse across culture as verbal language. This is why when looking for interpreting services, it is important to keep in mind that cultural awareness is a prerequisite to fully understand what is being said, and only trained professionals with the right sensitivity can achieve high-quality results.
This is why at Langpros we select only the best interpreters with years of experience and specific education, in order to provide our clients with the highest standards of accuracy, fluency, and satisfaction.