In part 1, we looked at the different ways of greeting others across the world. Now let’s look at more language without words!
Darwin claimed that humans have six universal facial expressions to communicate happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, and anger. But is that really true? Recent research by Glasgow University has actually shown that different cultures express their emotions using different facial expressions. For example, a European will often express and recognise an emotion by the movement of the mouth, whereas Asian cultures tend to express and recognise strong emotion with eye activity.
But what about expressing emotions through text? We might want to do this if we are sending a private message on busuu, or using the busuutalk text chat. Interestingly, expression of emotions via emoticons also varies between cultures, but is largely based on the same differences involved in facial expressions:
- European emoticons show differences in the mouth, for example :-) and :-o
- Asian emoticons focus more on the eyes, for example (^_^) and (o.o)
Why not try this out next time you send a busuu private message or chat in busuutalk?
Have you noticed that facial expressions and emoticons vary between cultures? Do you think you express your emotions more with your eyes or mouth? Share your opinion by leaving a comment below.
How embarrassing! The etiquette of meeting and greeting
We all love meeting people on busuu – conversing with people from different backgrounds and cultures whom you would never normally meet, all from the comfort of your living room. Best of all, there’s little chance of making any first-time-meeting faux-pas – just flip open a busuutalk or private message and get chatting!
But we don’t want you to just stay at home – we want you to get out there and practise your new-found language skills in the real world! Studies show that we have just 7 seconds to make a first impression, and that non-verbal communication has more of an effect on people than verbal. That’s why in this series we are looking at the theme ‘Language is more than words’ – when are words not enough?
Find out how the world greets others
Anthropologist Edward T. Hall defined our four levels of social interaction as being: intimate (distance of 6-18 inches), personal (distance of 1.5 to 4 feet), social (4 to 12 feet) and public (distance of 12 to 25 feet). At each distance, there are certain actions which are expected and certain which are inappropriate. But what happens when greeting etiquette from different cultures transcend different social distances?!
In international contexts, or places where there is little definition of greeting etiquette, greeting can be a social nightmare – in the UK, a handshake was always traditional, but cheek kisses have become more common, and these days some will even dive straight in for a hug!
Nod? Bow? Handshake? Kiss? Hug? Even where it’s clear there can be confusion. In France, the number of cheek kisses exchanged can vary from region to region – from 1 to a whopping 5! Context is also a defining factor. In Japan, a typical informal bow might be of around 15 degrees, whereas a formal one can be 30, and an apologetic bow would see a person dipping to 45 degrees! (Add in the duration and repetition of bows and we have even more variation!).
How do you greet people in your country? Does it vary across regions? Have you experienced any greeting faux-pas?! Leave a comment on our blog so that we can all learn to avoid the embarrassing situation pictured above!