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Communicating Without Words in Different Cultures

While many students join i-Learner to improve their verbal and written skills, 70-93% of our communication is in fact, body language, and we often learn that without even noticing. We are fortunate to have teachers from many different countries, and your interactions with them will help you become a global citizen who can communicate wherever you go, even without words.

What exactly is body language?

Eye contact, facial expressions and other gestures are physical communications that we often take for granted. For most of us, it’s second nature, and by virtue of growing up predominantly in one culture, we don’t have to think hard to understand it.  But there are significant differences in body language around the world. We might know about a few popular ones, for example, when greeting others, the Japanese bow while the French kiss.  However, many meaningful messages are often subtle.

Body language rules can be complex and vary depending on factors such as culture, gender, age and status.  One of the most challenging parts of adapting across cultures can be learning a whole new way of communicating without words.  If you’re planning to travel to a different country in the near future, a good idea is to spend some time after arrival, simply observing ‘how the locals do things.’

How closely do they stand to others?  How loudly do they speak?  Do they make much eye contact?  Does it vary depending on who they are talking to?  Is expressiveness encouraged or do they take a more stoic approach to showing feelings?  Is there anything that really takes you by surprise or perhaps even shocks you?  Are there gestures that are regularly used to facilitate or speed-up communication?

If you are interested in learning more about learning body language in new countries, check out these great articles:



Taking the time to observe local protocols is a sign of interest in and respect for the ways of a people that are different to your own.  It also opens up your understanding of how people perceive their world and what is important to them.  Both are essential to feeling more at home abroad.