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CONCLUSION. People in all cultures use nonverbal gestures to communicate and they use the symbols spontaneously
People in all cultures use nonverbal gestures to communicate and they use the symbols spontaneously, without thinking about what eye contact, what gesture, what posture is appropriate to the situation. Some of these gestures are conscious; some are unconscious. People learn the system of nonverbal communication in which they are brought up, that is the socio-cultural environment.
Many nonverbal expressions vary from culture to culture, and what is acceptable in one culture may be completely unacceptable in another, and it is just those variations that make nonverbal misinterpretation a barrier. We are often not aware of how gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and the use of space affect communication, when we are not aware of their meaning within a culture. Just like cultural norms it would be impossible for anyone to learn all the possible nonverbal communication behavior meanings. While we expect language to be different, we are less likely to expect and recognize how the nonverbal symbols are different.
2. Answer the questions based on the text:
- What is nonverbal communication? Why should one care about it?
- What types of nonverbal communication are discussed in the text?
- Do you remember elements of body language?
- Which gestures are used in different countries for greetings?
- How important is concern about body space and body touch in multicultural communication?
- How can we define the term “paralanguage”?
- Can you name components of paralanguage?
- Do you agree with the statement “Silence is gold”?
- Can cultural differences in nonverbal communication be too difficult to deal with? Do you believe you would be able to adjust to gestures and body language of Japanese people, for example?
3. Try playing charades. Notice how much more aware of nonverbal communication everyone is during the game. Do all players communicate equally well? What differences can you identify between the good players and those who are less skilled?
4. Look at the picture below and learn the meaning of some gestures in different countries. Do you know more examples of such gestures? Use extra sources to find information.
5. Watch the episode “The Lion’s Cage” with Charlie Chaplin. Describe the emotions you can see in the video. What nonverbal signs can you notice? Can words be equally replaced by gestures?
DISCOVERING OTHER CULTURES
Selected Intercultural Incidents
1. If you go to a swimming pool in the Czech republic, there is always a sign that says: ‘After bathing, please take off your swimsuit and wash yourself with soap.’ If someone did keep his swimsuit on, Czechs would consider this strange as well as unhygienic.
Having this notice in mind, I went to the public swimming pool in England and naively took off my swimsuit when taking a shower afterwards. The British women around me were petrified.
(Andrea K., Czech Republic, in England)
The degree to which public display of nudity is acceptable (including in advertising, etc.) is culture-specific Would you take your swimsuit off for the shower on your first visit to a swimming pool in Prague?
2. In Italy it is quite common among males to kiss each other on both cheeks, especially on birthdays
or other celebrations and when we meet again after a long time. While in England, I wanted to wish an English friend a merry Christmas and approached in order to kiss him. He backed off horrified.
(Ignazio M., Italy, in England)
Touching behavior (including handshakes and kissing) is culture-specific. In many Mediterranean countries, two males may kiss, hug or hold hands in public (what exactly is acceptable or not depends on the country or region).
Is there any situation where two males might hug each other in public in our country? (In Northern Europe, they do after they score a goal at a soccer game, for instance: why is it acceptable then?)
Would you accept Ignazio’s hug, or would you back off as the English male did?
3. My mother and I arrived in Bad Breisig, Germany, to spend a few days visiting with her relatives. I was very excited to meet these people as I had not seen them since the age of seven. Upon arrival my mother and I jumped out of the car and emotionally ran to her aunt and uncle with outstretched arms. Instantly I noticed that they did not reciprocate our emotion as they stood with their arms at their sides and an indifferent expression. This bothered me as I interpreted it as a rude gesture— distant and unwelcoming. Looking back now I realize I misinterpreted their behavior. I know this now because as we continued our visit with them I marked a change in their treatment of us: more touching, smiling and an overall greater sense of warmth!
(Greta P., U.S., in Germany)
Touching and hugging behavior is culture-specific; so is display of emotions. Germany is largely a non-touching culture (except handshakes), and public display of emotions (joy, anger, sadness) is kept under control. The constant smiling of many Americans may strike Europeans as artificial and superficial. Friendliness, in Europe, is not necessarily conveyed through a smile.
Would you adapt your behavior to the German customs and refrain from smiling, etc., or not?