Intercultural Confusions

Joseph J. Green

Northern Arizona University

Eye contact

In some cultures eye contact is considered rude, others proper and respectful, and in others, it depends on authority.


In the United states the “A OK” sign and the “Thumbs Up” sign are generally reguarded as positive things. However, in brazil, “A OK” is obscene, and in SOME COUNTRY? “Thumbs Up” is an insult.

Speaking style

Some countries perfer to be direct others, indirect. In the United States, people tend to be direct. They say what they mean. However, in other countries such as

Some countries have fast speakers, interupting each other is a sign of engagement, in other countries it’s considered rude to interupt. (THAT MOVIE THING)

In france, they love to debate, everything could lead to debate

There are a few ways to help prevent too many faux paws (That is not spelled right) when dealing interculturally. Gestures is the easiest to solve. Just don’t use them. If you avoid using them, you can’t insult anyone with them. However, most other things, such as eye contact and speaking style are much harder to deal with. The most important thing we can do, is to do our best to learn about our target culture that we will interact with. Use multiple interpreters, if there are language barriers, and double check clarity for anything improant or if there is any doubt in meanings. For example, to remove doubt from, say, a business agreement, don’t have the deal translated just in one direction, after the other person claims to understand, ask them to translate it back to you for clarity. Also, local translators or associates can clear us in.

Mexicans avoid eye gaze:

OK sign offends Brazillians

Argentina thumbs up ill mannered:

Japan – indirect is polite

French like to debate, happy to express opinions, want real oppinions – THAT VIDEO