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Gestures

Many gestures can seem like a breach of good manners. Nonverbals are usually readily understood within our own culture but may easily be misinterpreted by people from other cultures, no matter how long they’ve lived in the United States. It’s true that actions often speak louder than words, and no gestures are universal. In addition, body language is more important to many people from other cultures than it is to most Americans. The way that words are said, and the hand movements, posture, and facial expressions that accompany words, often have greater significance than the words themselves. In addition, the less English that people understand, the more they will tend to rely on body language.

Giving the typical American gesture for OK, for instance, would likely be perceived as poor manners by someone from France, Belgium, or Tunisia, where that same gesture signifies worthless or zero. In many other countries, the American OK sign represents an obscene or lewd comment.


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