C. Cognitive Patterns Of Culture

Another important consideration in intercultural communication is the influence of culture on cognitive thinking patterns, which include reasoning and approaches to problem solving. In some cultures male friends may engage in a bear hug and kiss each other on both cheeks. People from Japan and India traditionally bow to greet each other. Japanese men will place their hands at the side of the body and bow from the waist, with the lower-ranking person bowing first and dipping lower than the other person.

Indians will perform the namaste, which entails holding the hands together in a prayer-like fashion at mid-chest while slightly bowing the head and shoulders.

Eye contact is another important culturally influenced nonverbal communication behavior. For U.S. Americans, direct eye contact is an important part of making a good impression during an interview. However, in some cultures, direct eye contact is considered rude or threatening. Among some Native Americans, children are taught to show adults respect by avoiding eye contact. When giving a presentation in Japan, it is common to see people in the audience with their eyes shut, because this is thought to facilitate listening. (Try it – you may be surprised) How a person dresses also sends a strong nonverbal message. What are your thoughts when you see an elderly woman wearing a hijab, a Jewish boy with a yarmulke, or a young black man in a colorful dashiki? Nonverbal facial and body expressions, like language, form a coding system for constructing and expressing meaning, and these expressions are culture bound. Through culture, we learn which nonverbal behavior is proper for different social interactions.

But what is appropriate and polite in one culture may be disrespectful or even insulting in another culture. People engaging in intercultural communication, therefore, should try to maintain a continual awareness of how body behaviors may influence an interaction.