Topic 3 Cultural differences in communication

An important cultural difference when it comes to nonverbal communication is the display of emotion: Some cultures are more restrained than others and refrain from excessive displays of emotion in public or at all. Some cultures may also suppress facial emotion, believing an animated face to show a lack of control over one’s emotions.

Eye contact is another aspect of nonverbal communication that differs across cultures. In the United States, direct eye contact is generally considered to be a sign of trustworthiness and interest in an individual’s words. However, in some instances, a prolonged gaze may be considered by some to be a sign of sexual interest or attraction. In countries such as Japan, eye contact is generally avoided, as direct eye contact may be considered to be disrespectful. Yet in Arabic cultures, the opposite is true: eye contact is believed to show interest and honesty.

Different level of expressiveness in cultures – The difference between animated and restrained cultures concerns admissibility and role, expressing personal emotions and attitudes in communication. Animated cultures are characterized by high expression. Raising the voice, frequent interruptions of the speech, touching each other (e.g. patting), long looking into the eyes during the conversation are allowed. By representatives of restrained cultures this might be sometimes seen as too loud, pushy, and talkative. For representatives of restrained cultures, the most important is the verbal statement regarding the subject of the discussion. Expressing the accompanying emotions and attitudes is not that important here. They speak much quieter than representatives of animated cultures and do not interrupt the statements of others.