Different Body Languages depending on people’s gender, ethnic origin and cultural background

Different Body Languages depending on people’s gender, ethnic origin and cultural background

Gender differences in body language

Body motion, gestures and non-verbal cues are a rich source of information for social understanding. An extensive number of studies have shown that men and women communicate in a different way. In most cases, the verbal communication style of women has been characterized as being more emotional than men. Women concentrate more on feelings and creating relationships while men concentrate on power and establishing their status. When it comes to non-verbal communications, men and women sometimes use different signals to express similar feelings and perceive same expressions differently.

Facial Expressions

Universal facial expressions are shared between both genders, but there are some differences in their use and perception. For one, women usually smile more often than men. They use their smile to express politeness or fulfil certain cultural expectations where men most often smile only when happy or when they want to engage someone’s interest. Also, the perception of the same facial expressions differs in men and women.

Personal Space

The comfortable distance an individual wants to keep from another person differs to a great extent from one person to the other. Gender, however, is often another factor that affects one’s sense of personal distance. Men generally need more space than women, and they keep larger personal distances. They are less likely to stand close together, even when they are all good friends. They also tend to create larger buffer zones using jackets, mugs, papers, etc. They want their buffer zones to be respected and do not respond well to individuals invading their personal space.

Women usually employ smaller personal distances with other individuals. However, they are inclined to increasing personal distance with unfamiliar men. They also create buffer zones, but much smaller ones that men create. They are more prone to drawing back when their zones are invaded with their buffer zones being not as respected as the male ones. People are more likely to move a woman’s purse than a man’s jacket.

Female Body Language

Female body language changes in time, differs from culture to culture and it is not universal to all women. There are, however, some actions that most women have in common.

Posture: Many women use closed body language which could be a cultural convention to appear smaller. However, when they want to look more attractive, they will straighten their posture.

Leaning: When they are interested in something or someone women tend tol ean forward – they also lean away when offended, displeased or uncomfortable.

Eye contact: Eye contact and dilated pupils are a signal of interest (in what is said or the person saying it).

Copying: Women frequently mirror (copy) the actions of each other and occasionally mirror even men.

Physical contact: Women are more inclined to touching each other than men are.

Tapping: Tapping, squirming or fidgeting is a sign that a woman is upset, annoyed or uncomfortable.

Male Body Language

Just like female body language is not universal to all women, male body language is not universal to all men. However, certain aspects of body language are common to many men – they are often seen as more aggressive and dominating. Some women are encouraged to adapt male body language in particular workplaces.

Posture: In order to increase their size, men often choose wide stances. Wide leg position and a straight back (both when sitting and standing) demonstrates confidence.

Eye contact: Men do make eye contact, but it can often be seen as a dominating act if it lasts too long. Just like in women, dilated pupils are a signal of interest.

Copying: Men do not usually mirror each other, but ofttimes mirror women to show interest.

Hands: Men are more prone to fidgeting than women. The fidgeting doesn’t always indicate insecurity or boredom, it is often just a way to use their energy.

9 Body Language Expressions in Different ethnic origin

Eye Contact In Japan

‘Look at me when I’m talking to you!’

Admit that you’ve heard this sentence at least from your parents. It shows how important it is to look someone in the eyes then talking to them.

In Japan, however, you won’t hear this sentence, or, at least, not like this.

In most countries, eye contact during conversation is not only a sign that you are paying attention but also an indicator of your culture.

Eye contact in Japan is considered as an act of aggression and rudeness.

The Japanese don’t look each other in the eyes when they talk but in the neck.

China And Noses

In Western countries, people don’t pay attention to noses too much.

Noses are part of our faces and they give an overall expression about us. But nothing more than that.

In China, however, it’s a bit different. There (but in several other Eastern Asian countries) noses represent wealth, status, and self-esteem.

In many countries, when you want to point out your strength and status, you point at your chest.

In China, it’s more than enough to point at your nose, so that the people around you know what you want to tell them.

Oh, and don’t forget to point your nose and not the nose of other people. It’s considered very rude.

In India, Shake Your Head Left-Right

When you want to say yes, you shake your head up and down.

Admit that your first thought was that the whole world does this.

Well, not quite.

In India, when you want to say ‘yes,’ you shake your head. But you don’t shake it up and down, but left and right, towards the shoulders.

Not only that head shake means ‘yes,’ it can mean that you are paying attention to what your speaker is saying.

Bow In Korea

Not only in Korea but also other East Asian countries, such as Japan and China, a bow is the basis of politeness, respect, and bon-ton.

The more you bow to your speaker, the greater your respect is.

Moreover, the more you keep the head bowed, the more serious you are.

‘Thumbs Up’ for Iran

Do you know what ‘thumbs up’ means?

Yes, the thumbs-up gesture means that you are encouraging someone, and with this gesture, you are telling them, ‘Go ahead!’

And do you know that in Iran, when you show thumbs up, you can offend someone?

In many Middle East countries, including Iran, when you show this gesture, it’s like you’ve been showing someone a middle finger, so, yes, it can be very offensive.

But, thanks to the internet and today’s availability to be informed about anything you want to know, in Iran, people slowly started using the thumbs up gesture like in the Western part of the world.

Well, not everyone and not all the time, but can come across some people giving you thumbs up in the meaning ‘OK.’

Counting From One to Five in Russia

From the heat, orient, and colors, let’s move up to the cold and magnificent Russia.

No matter if you are fluent and know even the curse words in Russian, we bet you don’t know this fun fact.

While counting from one to five using finders, people all over the world start counting with a ball-up fist. Starting from one, you uncurl each of the fingers. Until you come to five, your hand is wide open.

Everywhere worldwide, people count like this except in Russia.

Instead of a ball-up fist, they start counting with a wide-open palm. So, when Russians start counting from one, they curl their fingers one by one. In the end, when they reach five, they get a ball-up fist.

Counting in Germany

When you say Germany, one of the first things that come to your mind is beer.

Yes, Germany is a country of beer, so, naturally, everything is all about beer.

As we already mentioned, we use fingers for counting. One of the fun facts you probably didn’t know is that in Germany, they use fingers for counting, too, but also for beer mugs.

You, for example, came to Germany and went to drink a couple of their famous beers. How will you order them?

Start counting with a thumb, and not with a pointer finger, as people in the USA do.

If you want two beers, then point the thumb and the pointer finger, and so on.

Don’t forget this way of counting, or you may get drunk pretty quickly.

Comme Ci, Comme ça In France

You’ve probably heard of the phrase that French use so much, comme ci, comme ça.

It’s equivalent to the English so-so.

However, the French use it a little bit differently.

Since the French are perfectionists and have very high standards for every aspect of their lives, they use this phrase very often.

When you, for example, ask a French how his day was, they will likely answer with comme ci, comme ça. It doesn’t mean that some part of their day was terrible. It just means that there was nothing special, nothing worth mentioning; A day like any other.

Hand Gestures In Italy

What’s the best way to learn Italian? Let’s be straight right away: without hand gesturing, it is impossible.

So, if you are learning Italian, besides the language, you should ask your Italian tuor to teach you their hand gestures as well.

One of the worldwide-known Italian gestures is the pinecone. Even if you don’t know the exact meaning, without a doubt, you can feel the word itself.

Even though it can be used in almost every situation, it is known that it is accompanied by questions.

The pinecone gesture is formed when you bring all the tips of your fingers to one point. Then you move your wrist back and forth. And don’t forget to parla Italiano while doing it.

You are trying it now, aren’t you?

Cultural background

Hand gestures

We use gestures as a way to emphasis points and illustrate what we are saying.

Hand gestures can mean very different things in different cultures; the ‘OK’ sign in Greece, Spain or Brazil means you are calling someone an a**hole. In Turkey, it’s meant to be an insult towards g*y people.

A thumbs up in America and European cultures is an indicator of a job well done, however in Greece or the Middle East, it can mean ‘up yours’

Curling the index finger with the palm facing up is a common gesture that people in United States and parts of Europe use to beckon someone to come closer. However, it is considered rude in China, East Asia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and many other parts of the world. It’s also considered extremely impolite to use this gesture with people. It is used only to beckon dogs in many Asian countries - and using it in the Philippines can get you arrested

Eye contact

In most western countries, eye contact is a sign of confidence and attentiveness. We tend to assume that if someone looks away while we are talking to them, they’re disinterested and looking for someone else to talk to.

In many Middle Eastern countries, same-gender eye contact tends to be more sustained and intense than the western standard. In some of these countries, eye contact beyond a brief glance between the sexes is deemed inappropriate.

In many Asian, African, and Latin American countries, however, this unbroken eye contact would be considered aggressive and confrontational. These cultures tend to be quite conscious of hierarchy, and avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect for bosses and elders.

In these parts of the world, children won’t look at an adult who is speaking to them, and nor will employees to their bosses.

Moving your head

In some parts of India, people tilt their head from side to side to confirm something and demonstrate that they are actively listening. The side to side head movement originates from British occupation, as the occupied Indian people were afraid to ever gesture ‘no’ to soldiers but wanted to show signs of understanding.

Sitting positions

Be aware of your posture when you attend meetings or are dining. Sitting cross-legged is seen as disrespectful in Japan, especially in the presence of someone older or more respected than you.

Showing the soles of your shoes or feet can offend people in parts of the Middle East and India. That is why throwing shoes at someone is a form of protest and an insult in many parts of the world - as former U.S. President George W. Bush famously discovered on a visit to Iraq in 2008.


Northern Europe and the Far East as classed as non-contact cultures. There is very little physical contact beyond a handshake with people we don’t know well. Even accidentally brushing someone’s arm on the street warrants an apology.

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