Gestures: The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World. – book reviews
To understand “body language” is to be able to decipher hidden meanings in gestures and movements. The book contains over 200 gestures used in 82 countries that can bewilder the foreign visitor.
Our American motion for “hello” can be interpreted in parts of Europe to mean “no” or “go away.” Nodding “yes” in the United States can mean “no” in Yugoslavia and Iran. Important cultural differences, despite jet air travel, keep nations apart.
An American teenager was hitchhiking in Nigeria. A carload of locals passed him. The car screeched to a halt. The locals jumped out and promptly roughed up the visitor. Why? Because in Nigeria, the gesture commonly used in America for hitch-hiking (thumb extended upward) is considered a very rude signal.
Gestures and body language have been called “the silent language.” True examples from the book emphasize how various cultures regard “natural” gestures:
“‘When you shake hands,’ my father used to growl at me,” the author recounts, “‘be sure to give ’em a good firm grip. Also look ’em straight in the eye.’
“Little did he realize that in other parts of the world fathers were teaching their sons and daughters something entirely different.
“For example, fathers in India were instructing their children to usen namaste, where the hands are placed in a praying position, about chest high, accompanied by a slight bow. It also means ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’ In Thailand, this same gentle and gracious gesture is called the wai, and if the pressed hands are held too high the gesture becomes an insult.”
Roger Axtell has produced a whimsical collection of examples to remind the reader that even if English becomes a universal language, the body languages of the globe’s people will probably remain Towers of Babel.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vegetus Publications
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group