The shocking differences in basic body language around the world

The body speaks volumes.

But what it says depends on the culture you’re in. Facial expressions, gestures, mannerisms, and degree of eye contact vary greatly across countries.

For example, “Arms, which are used little by Nordics during conversation, are an indispensable element in one’s communicative weaponry in Italy, Spain, and South America,” writes Richard Lewis in “When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures.” 

The cultural differences in body language are vast — there are entire books dedicated exclusively to hand gestures — but we’ve selected a few to create a simple, body-language etiquette guide that highlights some surprising differences,  thanks to information from Lewis’ book and the  National Academic Advising Association (NACADA):

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