Unfortunately, our body parts do not send universally identical messages. A body part may send one message in one culture or country and something completely different in another. It behooves the interviewer to know these differences; failure to do so could result in rather embarrassing moments.Here are some examples of these differences.

  • Head – Nodding the head signifies agreement in most societies. However, in places like Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, a nodding head means “no”.
  • Eyes – In Western cultures we praise good eye contact. In Asian cultures it is not acceptable to look the other person in the eye. It is a sign of disrespect and considered a challenge.
  • Arms – Some cultures use their arms freely to make gestures. Others, like the Japanese, consider it impolite to gesture with broad movements of the arms.
  • Handshaking – In Middle Eastern and some Asian countries, shake hands using the right hand. The left hand is considered dirty.
  • Legs and feet – Sitting cross-legged in Asia and the Middle East is considered disrespectful. Resting the ankle over the other knee risks pointing the sole of your shoe at another person which is considered a rude gesture.
  • The OK sign – In the West, the “thumb up” or “OK” sign means a good job. In Australia, New Zealand, and most African countries, it is an insult. The OK sign, where the thumb and forefinger form a circle, means fine or good in most cultures. However, in France and other European countries it means “zero” or “worthless”.