Culture and Nonverbal Communication

Buenas tardes! Throughout the world, there are several different cultures that each have their own types of nonverbal communication. Compared to the United States, each of these cultures are different in a vast number of ways. After taking environmental factors, chronemics, haptics, proxemics, paralanguage and artifacts all into account, it is simple to see the differences and similarities between the various cultures and the U.S.

One form of nonverbal communication that is widely used is haptics. Haptics is touch and it is believed that touching and being touched are essential to a healthy life. Haptics differ greatly throughout the world. For example, In spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, people greet each other with one kiss on the cheek. In Spain, however, people greet each other with two kisses on the cheek. In the United States, the main form of greeting is shaking hands. When meeting someone for the first time, shaking hands is most appropriate. When greeting friends, however, it is not uncommon for them to hug. Other countries have different customs. In Japan, for example, people bow to each other in greeting. They think it rude to touch. The haptics concept is intrepreted differently all over the world. Every country has a different perception of touch as communication.

Another form of nonverbal communication is the environment. Different environmental factors impact the way people communicate, feel, and act in different ways. For example, in the Bahamian culture, the environment has little effect on peoples communication techniques. Whether is a stormy or sunny, the bahamians are generally nice and welcoming people, especially in the prospect of a sale. In the United States, however, people are less open to communication when it is raining. Generally, people tend to stick to themselves when the weather is poor and are more open to others when it is sunny. Environmental factors can play a part in communication depending on the area and the personality types of those people.

Another part of nonverbal communication that depends on the area and its people is chronemics. Chronemics is how time is perceived and used to define identities. The island countries have a vastly different concept of time than Americans. For example, the island countries do not concern themselves with being somewhere on time. They do not rush from place to place as Americans do. Americans seem to always be in a hurry. For example, in Times Square in New York, there are always so many people trying to get so many places in such little time. The island countries take their time and seem to enjoy life more than Americans because they are not always rushing to get somewhere. In Mexico, the natives take their time with things. This can lead to some frustration, especially when a cruise ship full of rushing and time-conscious Americans come in. Chronemics are perceived differently all around the world.

In addition to chronemics, environmental factors and haptics, artifacts have symbolic significance of personal identities, territories and personal environments. Like the other forms of nonverbal communication, artifacts and their significance differ from culture to culture. For example, the American flag only symbolizes America to other countries, but in America it can symbolize freedom and prosperity.  Another example is eqyptian heiroglyphics. These heiroglyphics mean several things to Egyptians, but to foreigners, they may just look like a bunch of symbols and have no meaning at all. There are several different artifacts that may have great spiritual value to some cultures, while in others are a symbol of anger, hatred and other feelings which affect how these two cultures would communicate with each other. Another artifact that symbolizes different things to different people within the United States is military symbols on uniforms. Depending on the symbol, a soldier would have to change the way he is communicating with that person. For example, if he were talking to a fellow soldier who has few, if any, symbols, he would have little concern. On the other hand, if he were talking to a general or someone of higher rank who has more symbols, he would have to choose his words and actions carefully. Different artifacts can have a number of different meanings to different cultures.

Proxemics, how we percieve and use space, is another form of nonverbal communication. The concept of personal space differs from culture to culture. For example, in island countries, people have no problem getting close to each other. They have no qualms about walking right up to someone and striking up a conversation. For example, when tourists come on to the island, they will walk right up, sometimes touching the tourists, and try and sell something. They do not have issues with personal space, unlike America. In America, people are disturbed and sometimes offended when someone gets too close; they think of it as invading their personal space. The concept of space differs from culture to culture as does paralanguage.

Paralanguage is vocal communication that does not include words. It includes sounds such as murmurs and gasps. It, much like the other forms of nonverbal communication, differs from culture to culture. For example, a tisk tisk in America expresses disappointment, but the sound in some cultures can be an expression of attraction to someone else. There are other sounds that can mean the same thing in other cultures. For example, a gasp expresses shock or surprise while a sigh typically expresses disappointment or fatigue. Paralanguage, like the other forms of nonverbal communication discussed, means different things to different cultures.

Every culture has its own customs. Each culture has a different way of communicating with its members. Naturally, each culture would also have a different way of communicating nonverbally. Haptics, environmental factors, chronemics, artifacts, proxemics and paralanguage are all examples of how cultures across the world differ from one another.

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~ by fevgroup on September 18, 2007.

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