Do you understand Asian Culture? Research on body language usually entails the general meanings and indications of the most common gestures and body movements that most people use in their daily lives. However, these signals of communication may mean differently in other countries and cultures. Some cultures use a certain gesture as a positive sign but there are other cultures, especially in Asian countries, that may see it as a rude act.
This article discusses the accepted gestures of touch, forms of greeting and signals of summoning in different Asian countries, specifically China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.
China is one of the most conservative countries in Asia, thus why touching is rare. In China, it is rare to see a public display of affection. Holding hands is alright but only as a sign of friendship. Chinese have small personal spaces, thus unintended slight bumping or shoving does not need an apology.
Chinese usually greet themselves with a bow, nod of the head or handshake. They rarely use hugging or kissing during a greeting. Greeting cards are also exchanged but they must be handled properly by holding the card with both hands. In terms of beckoning or summoning, they face their palms downwards and move their fingers back and forth. The Chinese believe that summoning with the palms facing upwards is rude and is only used to animals.
Posture is also very important in China. One must not slouch or put feet on stools or tables. They also try to prevent saying “no” to other people. To deal with opposition, Chinese people simply tilt their head back and suck in air loudly through their teeth.
Japan, just like China, is not a touch-oriented country. Thus avoid public display of affection, especially prolonged touching. Japan is famous for its graceful bows as a form of greeting. Handshakes are also accepted, but bowing is a better sign of showing respect to another person.
The lower and longer the bow, the stronger you are showing respect, humility or gratitude. In greeting Japanese people, avoid kissing, hugging or staring at them. Prolonged eye contact can be intimidating for them, thus they consider it as rude, as well as putting your hands in front of your pocket when greeting.
Summoning gestures in Japan are similar to that of China – palm facing down. Acts of body language that one must avoid in the public in Japan is spitting or blowing of the nose, opening the mouth, such as in yawning and laughing.
Bowing is the traditional way of greeting and departing in Korea. For men, they usually shake hands, but for women, they give a slight nod of the head. Because Korea is a conservative country, hugging and kissing are not acceptable when done in public. The culture beckons people with the palm facing downwards as well. They also rise when an elder person enters the room as a sign of respect. Knocking before entering a room is seen as good posture and is important as well in Korea.
Unlike in other countries in Asia, the Philippines is a touch-oriented country. Public display of affection is accepted, but with a minimum limit as a consideration. Handshakes or simply raising their eyebrows quickly is a form of greeting. In beckoning a specific object, Filipinos tend to point to it with their mouths. Respect to the elderly is always shown, usually by placing their forehead onto the back of the hand of the elderly.
When interacting with Asian people or visiting the said countries, you need to be sensitive to their culture and acceptable of their body language. You may think that what you are doing is all right since it is accepted in your country but Asian people may think you are being rude. Be mindful of each culture’s etiquette and you will do well in your endeavors.
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