Reading Body Language

Cultural test

Can you read body language?

In the epic movie “Inglorious bastards”, the Americans give away their identity by a minor yet fatal mistake: the gesture of the number 3 using the “wrong” fingers. It’s my favourite scene in the entire movie!

Because I have lived in many countries since I was a kid (9 in total!), I have always been fascinated by both verbal and non-verbal communication:

I grew up in Rio de Janeiroand Brazilians pull one ear to say that something is really tasty (food)

I have visited over 10 countries in Asia, and bowing is often a way of saying thank you and showing respect, however the bowing degree and movement varies: in Thailand for instance they will bring their palms close together towards their heart while saying thank you.

I lived in Italy for my studies, and people bring their fingertips together (both hands) while saying “Mamma Mia!” in typical Italian fashion, to express anything: the good, the bad and the ugly!

I visited India once in 2007, and people shake their head from side to side to say yes, but it really looks like a “no” for Westeners. Watch out, it can be confusing!

Body language in Greater China

I have spent most of my life living in China / Taiwan / Hong Kong, so most of my examples come from there:

Chinese have a completely different hands code for numbers:

Number 5: close your fist
Number 10: do a cross with both index fingers

The hand gesture for eating illustrates the action of eating with chopsticks from a bowl.

When someone serves you tea while dining, you knock on the table with your index and middle finger knuckles: it’s the modern version of bowing in front of the Emperor, like in the old times!

Chinese point towards their nose to say “I” while in the West we tend to point towards our chest

What are some other examples of body language of other cultures?


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Veronica Llorca Smith
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Veronica Llorca Smith



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