Between the lines

There are so many things we can learn about the people around us in a world where migration became normal. Also working atmosphere and holiday stays can be extremely enhanced by reading the behavior of your counterpart.

Gestures are one form of nonverbal communication in which visible body actions are used to communicate messages, either to replace speech or parallel with spoken words. Movement of the hands and head are mainly included. Gestures are culture-specific and can convey very different meanings in different social or cultural settings. That’s why it is so important to know the basics of gestures of cultures we live visit or even live with. A single emblematic gesture can have very different significance in different cultural contexts, ranging from complimentary to highly offensive.

Go away
Come here

Really simple examples are gestures like “come here” and “go away”. When you think of these gestures the only difference is that in one case you show your hand palm upwards and in the other case you turn the back of the hand up and then you fold your fingers up and out. A simple movement which is used just the other way around in other countries (for instance Thailand).

Way more dramatic is the difference of the meaning of the often used sign holding the thumb up when the other fingers are closed to a fist. In Austria and many other European countries we show this way that everything’s ok. A gesture we use very often to communicate our state of mind to a person who does not speak our language. But this can be quite ambiguous, especially nowadays in times of migration. For people from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq this sign has a filthy meaning quite common to our stretched middle finger. Not the best way to welcome desperate people to their new home.

But not only people from different countries have their problems avoiding misunderstandings and to coexist peacefully. Also within the same culture sometimes sensibility and tolerance are inquired because not even two people learned identical lessons in their lives.

Every different family let us grow up differently and promote or disregard personal characteristic that were assessed in our personality.

Furthermore when you think of the body language of an old man and a teenager it seems they come from different planets. However in times of social media platforms young people already began to align their gestures international. Also young afghan people already know about the meaning of our “thumb up” when they come to Europe from internet and television.

Nowadays it is getting normal belonging to different populations with all their peculiarities at the same time as we move to different countries. But still or therefore we have to watch body language, facial expression carefully and be open to other ways of behaving.

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