Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making Gestures With a Foreigner

When traveling abroad, some innocent or even friendly gestures can get you into trouble. These include making a circle of the thumb and index finger, pointing the index finger, and giving the thumbs-up sign.
Here are some other cautions:

➤ Avoid using the crooked index finger in a beckoning gesture. In many cultures the beckoning gesture is done with the arm extended and the fingers making an inward sweeping motion.
➤ In some places you may see people clap their hands or snap their fingers to get the attention of waiters or servants. In general, however, it is wise for the visitor to avoid doing either.
➤ The V for victory sign is insulting in England if the palm is turned inward. In fact, you should avoid this gesture altogether.
➤ Propping up your foot so that the sole of your shoe is facing someone is considered grossly insulting in most Asian countries and in parts of the Middle East.
➤ In some cultures it is considered rude to engage in conversation with your arms folded over your chest or with your arms akimbo (hands on hips). Avoiding etiquette errors when dealing with people from other cultures, either at home or abroad, is difficult—and may even be impossible. The world is a complex mosaic of customs and attitudes, and even the most well-traveled and well-read person can transgress unknowingly.

So, although you may not always be correct, you must always be courteous. A willingness to confess ignorance and to ask for help, the ability to apologize gracefully, and a friendly, open attitude will get you through most difficulties. Don’t let anxiety about making social blunders cause your relations with those from other cultures to be mannered or stiff. Approach learning about new places and people with a spirit of adventure and a desire to learn, and you will generally find that people are more than willing to forgive innocent breaches of etiquette.

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