How to Avoid Cultural Body Language ” Faux Pas”

How to Avoid Cultural Body Language ” Faux Pas”

Lady in white looking down l@anthonytran

Traveling to other countries where you don’t speak the language can be fun and challenging. Trying to get directions is not always easy when neither you nor the other person speaks the same language. Sometimes you can end up saying things you don’t mean and cause confusion or laughter. Other times you can outright insult the other person simply because you said a word wrong or used the wrong word in the wrong context. You may end up lost or hungry simply because of communication barriers.

While trying to communicate with words is hard enough, when we add in body language, the soup of miscommunication can get even spicier. Gestures which may be acceptable and understood in our own culture may get you into hot water in another. It’s best to learn about these before you arrive at your destination

Hands @alnik

Fun Facts about Body Language

80 -90% of the meaning of our message is nonverbal.

Body language is culturally defined. Facial expressions are universal, but the rest really depends on the culture we are in.

The ability to read body language cues is linked to social/emotional intelligence or awareness.

It is exceedingly complex. Context needs to be our guide.

Most of the time, we are unaware of our body language because it happens at an unconscious level.

General Differences Between Cultures

There are some general guidelines to know about when dealing with different cultures.  Some cultures are”non-contact” cultures such as Britain, Northern Europe, and the Far East (Asian cultures). Others are “high contact” cultures such as the Middle East, Latin America, and Southern Europe. In these cultures, physical touch is integral to socializing.

If you happen to be of Northern European or Asian ancestry, it may be extremely uncomfortable for you when coming in contact with people from South America, for example, and feel that your physical space is being invaded. Understanding the differences between cultures can help to smooth over these uncomfortable situations and avoid difficulties.

Lady in white looking down l@anthonytran

The Eyes

In Spain, Greece, and Arab-speaking countries, there is usually strong eye contact between people. It can be intense and you may feel the need to divert your gaze. However, you need to hold your gaze because, if you don’t, it can be interpreted as disrespect, insecurity or lack of interest, or all three. In Arab-speaking countries, this practice is only applicable between people of the same gender. Strong eye contact between men and women is not acceptable.

Intense eye contact is extremely awkward for people from Finland or Asian countries who grow up with the habit of not meeting the gaze of the person they are speaking to. In the Carribean, children are taught not to look adults in the eye when they are being corrected. In Africa and Latin America, strong eye contact is seen as a sign of aggression or a challenge of authority. In Cuba, avoiding eye contact can be seen as a sign of dishonesty.

Crossing Hands @iankiragu

Hands and Arms

In Italy hands and words go together and sometimes Italians don’t need even need words because hand gestures say everything. In Northern Europe, Britain and North America, however, hand waving can seem annoying or downright rude. In Japan, hand waving to express yourself is considered very impolite. In Middle Eastern countries, people, like the Italians, are very expressive and tactile; and empathy is an important component of any conversation.

Lefties in Arab countries; The left hand is considered unclean in these countries. You should never eat or greet anyone with your left hand. Above all, do not accept a gift with your left hand as this would be seen as a huge insult.

The hand wave: In America and Canada, this simply means goodbye (and hello), whereas in Europe and Latin America it means “No”. In Italy, a good by wave can be interpreted as “come here”. In Japan, the hand wave is seen as an insult.

man waving @persnicketyprints

Shaking hands: In the West, shaking hands is a normal way to greet someone, to say hello or goodbye, whereas, in Romania, shaking hands takes place only between men every time they meet in a day. They can easily shake hands 20 times a day.

In England, it is very unusual to greet someone with a handshake. In continental Europe (especially Southern Europe), kissing is the normal way to greet someone (don’t be surprised when you go to shake an Italian’s hand and you get bombarded by kissing on each cheek). Bowing lower and lower is the norm in Asian cultures. who try to outdo one another with honor and respect.

In Fiji and Tonga, shaking hands is a long drawn out affair, sometimes lasting the entire conversation. In Morocco, a greeting can last up to 10 minutes alternating between shaking hands and putting your hand to your heart. Don’t be surprised by lengthy handshakes in most African countries.

The “A-Ok” Sign: In France, this sign means “zero” (and worthless – don’t use this sign when the French chef asks how you enjoyed your meal).  In Greece, Italy, Brazil, and Russia, this sign is an insult. So, maybe it might be a good idea to leave this signal at home.

The “Come Here” Sign: This sign indicated with a finger is very insulting to people of Asian background and in Asian countries; it is only used for their pets.

Pointing: Pointing is generally considered rude in most countries, but is particularly unaccepted in China, Japan, Indonesia, and Latin America.

The “Thumbs Up” Sign: Be careful with this one. It may mean “good job” in Western countries and “one” is some European countries ( France, Italy, Germany), but in other countries such as Greece, India, and Arab-speaking countries, this sign has a sexual connotation (so, don’t go hitchhiking in these countries). In Japan, it means five. In Thailand, it is the equivalent of sticking your tongue out at someone. Good to know!

V is For Victory and Two: When the palm is faced inward, it means two to North Americans and most Europeans (as in 2 please!), but to the British, the Aussies and the New Zealanders, it is quite offensive. An American might think a Brit is giving the victory sign, but the Brit might be telling him something rude.  A German bartender might be getting ready to serve a Brit 2 drinks whereas the Brit is, in fact, insulting him.

Crossing the Fingers: This sign means “hoping for good luck” in the West. And, originally it was a secret sign of the cross. But don’t make this sign in Vietnam where it is considered to be an obscene gesture with a sexual connotation.

Woman looking down @avnishchoudhary

The Head

Head nodding: Nodding of the head is not the same everywhere. In North America and most countries, head nodding up and down signifies agreement. In Bulgaria, Albania, and Turkey, the up and down movement of the head means “No”. In India, a side-to-side movement of the head means “yes.”

If you are in Japan, you may notice that people nod their heads a lot in conversation. Don’t take that to mean the person agrees with you; it simply indicates that they are listening.

Never touch someone on the head in Asian countries; this is inappropriate since Asians believe the head represents the soul and it is very sacred.

Woman laughing @janayadesniuk

The Mouth

Laughter usually indicates someone is happy and a smile is a warm greeting in most places – but not in Russia! Don’t smile or laugh in Russia. If you smile there, it will make you look suspicious and laughter makes them very nervous.

A smile is not always a smile in Japan. Sometimes the smile may mean the person is embarrassed or angry.

Lips: In Latin America, it is considered rude to point with your finger, but not with your lips. In Latin America, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and among Native Americans, lip pointing is common.

Kissing: Kissing on the cheeks is common in European countries and Latin America countries. But in Asian countries, it is not permissible and highly frowned upon even when greeting people.

Spitting: In the West, spitting in public is considered rude. However, in many Asian countries, spitting in public is considered healthy and acceptable. Snorting is also considered quite acceptable in Asian culture, whereas North Americans find it impolite.

Silence: Don’t be surprised by prolonged silence in a conversation or negotiation in Asian countries. It is not necessarily a bad thing and may simply mean the person is thinking about what you said. It could also mean (in a negotiation scenario) that the other person is strategizing. So, it could go either way.

The Nose

Nose Blowing: Blowing your nose in public is typical and acceptable in the West, but in Japan, it is considered unacceptable. Don’t go into a meeting or negotiation with a cold.

Tapping the Nose: In England, tapping the nose shows confidence, confidential or top secret, whereas, in Italy, it says “watch out”.

man holding ear @ratneshrai

The Ears

Touching one’s ears: Depending on where you are the gesture of touching your ears can be interpreted differently. If you are in Portugal, it is a sign that you like your food. Don’t be so quick to touch your ears in Italy, though as it has a sexual connotation. If a person touches his or her ear in Spain, most likely someone is not paying for their drinks.

The Feet

Touching with feet: Never touch any part of anyone’s body with your feet in Asia or Arab-speaking countries. Keep your feet solidly on the floor and never point your foot or feet at anyone (ladies – no crossing or swinging your legs). In Asia, when you touch another person by accident (such as accidental kicking), touch the person on the hand and then touch your head. In Arab-speaking countries, feet are generally seen as dirty. Always avoid exposing the soles of your feet as it is considered rude and insulting.

People at Festival @matthewspiteri

Body Posture

While we, in North America, are much more relaxed in our posture, other countries may see this as disrespectful. In Arab countries and in Asian countries, don’t slouch. Erect posture shows respect.


Travelling can be a fun and educational experience. Knowing a little bit about the countries we are visiting ( the language, culture, and history) can make it even more enjoyable. Many times the most important words in a language are not even words. They are gestures and signs. Being culturally aware of body language can help you to avoid embarrassing and sometimes potentially negative experiences in other countries and help you to have a positive experience..

Have a great day!

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, pursuing a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her through

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Illustrious Hearst Castle

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Where is it?

The Hearst Castle Estate, a popular tourist site, is located along California Coastal Route 1 halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco (about a 4-hour drive from either city). It is high up in the hills overlooking the village of San Simeon and has a commanding view of the ocean as well.

Who Was William Randolph Hearst?

William Randolph Hearst was the only child of George and Pheobe Hearst, millionaire parents from the gold mining industry. William was raised primarily by his mother since his father was often away on mining business (he was a mining prospector and rancher). His father, George, was described as uncouth, preferring to hang around his mining buddies and dressing shabbily, despite his great wealth. As a child, Wiliam was overly protected by his mother and lived a very sheltered life. William is described as being a bit of a mischevious child who often pulled pranks around the house. He is described as being “difficult to discipline”.

When he was 10 years old, his mother took him on an 18-month tour of Europe. Even at this young age, Hearst was greatly impressed by what he saw in the culture, architecture, and art of Europe.

A lot can be said about William Randolph Hearst – that he was this and he was that,  that he had opportunities handed to him etc. etc. All the things that were written about him (and his character) may be legitimate, but let’s keep the focus on what he accomplished with a dream.  He was a man who appreciated art and was an eager student, despite not being a fan of formal education.

From Camping to Castle

The original plan was to build a bungalow (a family retreat) on ” Camp Hill” at the top of the family ranch. He wanted to build the main house and some guest houses to have something “more comfortable” than the platform tents they had. That is what he told architect Julia Morgan, with whom he would collaborate for 28 years building the castle. The family would regularly go “camping” at the ranch (probably more like “glamping” than camping) and he wanted to have a regular place to go to get away.

After the death of his mother, Pheobe Hearst (influenza epidemic), Willam Hearst became the inheritor of the family estate, including 250,000 acres of land.

Right from the beginning, William Hearst commissioned Julia Morgan (graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts) to start working with him on the project. They would work together over the next 28 years on what would become “La Cuesta Encantada” or The Enchanted Hill. The project evolved into a collection of luxurious buildings, the main one being Hearst Castle, inspired by European architecture and art.

The Main Building

The main building, Hearst Castle, was built in the Mediterranean – Moorish style. It resembles a Spanish cathedral complete with bell towers. There are 115 rooms including 38 bedrooms, about 40 bathrooms, a theatre, and a beauty salon. The main dining room served as an inspiration for the dining room hall in Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.

Guest Houses

There are three guests houses as well: Casa Del Mar, Casa Del Sol and Casa Del Montes. Below is one of them, though I do not know which of them it is.

The Indoor Pool

The indoor pool is a beautiful creation inspired by the ancient Roman baths. It is made from blue and gold colored tiles inside the pool as well as the walls and ceiling.

The Neptune Pool

The outdoor Neptune pool is surrounded by sculptures and collonades and has the facade of a Roman Temple at one end.

credit: Hearst Castle / California State Park/ V. Garagliano

The Gardens

All around the main building and guest houses are magnificent European and Californian inspired gardens,

William Randolph Hearst: Citizen Kane?

Much has been written about William Randolph Hearst possibly being the inspiration behind the 1941 movie “Citizen Kane“(Orson Wells). One thing is very clear, William Hearst did everything he could to prevent the movie from being released, from refusing to have it advertised in his newspapers, to using his Hollywood connections as leverage. Despite his efforts, he was unable to prevent the release of Citizen Kane.

There certainly were some striking similarities between the two men (Kane being fictional). Both built publishing empires, both built extravagant mansions, and both had relationship voids despite being surround by and entertaining many people. In contrast to William Hearst, who was born into wealth, Citizen Kane rose from a life of poverty to a life of wealth.

Whether or not he is Charles Foster Kane, many people associated William Randolph Hearst with the character in Citizen Kane and imagined him wandering throughout his massive estate alone, surrounded by opulence, driven by power, but starving for deep human relationships.

A National Treasure

Today The Hearst Castle Estate is now Hearst San Simeon Historical Monument and registered with California State Parks. There are daily tours to tour the premises.

Conclusion: Hearst Castle is definitely a worthwhile stop if you happen to be visiting South California. Despite the colorful history of its builder and owner, it remains, as well a testimony to the power of a dream. You will definitely be inspired as you travel throughout the buildings and the grounds.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, living a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. You can connect with her through

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The Unforgettable Route 66

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Unforgettable and Fun Things to See on Route 66

Traveling along Route 66 is quite the experience. I really had no idea what to expect from this adventure or what we were in for. I hope that you will enjoy this post as we explore some of the fun and curious things we saw along the way.

The Beginning

It begins in Chicago, Illinois. This city is well known for many reasons, not the least of them is Al Capone (Scarface), notorious gangster and businessman during the Prohibition era.  Chicago has many beautiful treasures, one of them being its beautiful lakeside front and downtown water canals.


So, We Begin Our Journey


Traveling through the cornfields of Illinois, we saw these – Follow the yellow – no, red, I mean the red brick road –

and visit the  Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois  Don’t forget to visit the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site – the final resting place of the 16th president.


A stop in St Louis to get some perspective:

The Gateway Arch reflects the role of St. Louis in the opening up of the West (Thomas Jefferson). St. Louis is also famous for the Dred Scott Trial (Dred and Hariette Dred) where the Dred couple filed in court for their freedom.

and a bite to eat at Angelo’s taverna

Then we headed on our way toward, Missouri (Cuba) and stayed in this quaint hotel (The Wagon Wheel Hotel

And ate at this wonderful country restaurant Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q right beside the Wagon Wheel hotel.

Don’t miss this little outpost store, not far from the Wagon Wheel hotel and the “biggest Rocking Chair in the world.”


Look at this cute little fire hydrant we spotted in a small Kansas town on our way as well as the cars that inspired the movie by the same name: Cars

Sometimes we hit a few obstacles:

But we were soon back on the road again.-


And onwards toward Oklahoma

Stop in and visit the Will Rogers Memorial & Museum (Claremore). Will Rogers was an Oklahoma country boy (of partly Cherokee heritage) who began actin in Wild West shows and then later, Vaudeville and ultimately Broadway. Rogers was also a nationally known writer (social moral issues of the day).


Here is another quaint restaurant: Pedro’s Bar and Grill

on our way into Texas

They say everything is big in Texas – this is the biggest cross I have ever seen –

In Groom, Texas, you will find this gem measuring 190 feet and reputed to be the tallest cross in the Northern Hemisphere.

And there are wide open spaces for growing anything (Cadillac Ranch)

Cadillac Ranch is a living, dynamic artwork /sculpture that invites participation (bring your spray paint). It has a bit of a quirky past, but essentially represents the “Golden Age” of the American automobile. You can find this gem just west of Amarillo, Texas on Old Route 66.

The Leaning Tower of – Texas?

Also in Groom, Texas

New Mexico

And we are off.. again.. en route for New Mexico…

And Albuquerque

Albuquerque is located on the upper edges of the Chihuahuan Desert in one of the highest elevated regions in the United States. The Old Historic Town was founded in 1706 by Spanish families. The brown adobe architecture is a Pueblo-Spanish style.


Now to cross the Continental Divide…. on the way to Arizona

Sometimes you can be on the wrong side, but don’t worry, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel –  on our way to Arizona.

Take a step back in time as you drive into Oatman, Arizona, an old mining ghost town that still continues to thrive. Come to walk among the donkeys that are regulars around town.


Here is what we encountered on our way into Oatman

Meteor Crater

This meteor crater is the world’s best-preserved meteor impact site. It is located along Route 66 in Northern Arizona, near Winslow. The crater is nearly one mile wide and 550 feet deep.

Grand Canyon –

No need for a bio on the Grand Canyon. It is simply massive and very beautiful.


Along Route 66, don’t miss the Bagdad Café – made famous by the movie of the same name.

In Newberry Springs, California, on Old Route 66, you will find the Bagdad Café – in the middle of nowhere, but somewhere in the Mojave Desert. There is not much of anything for miles around – just sand and heat and dust.

Sometimes along this lonely road, you may find it necessary to rethink your path-

But, you will know you are almost there when –

And, all of a sudden –  you have made it!!


Now to explore the destination –


A little bit of Los Angeles

And a little fun at Universal Studios –

and me with a couple of my buddies –


Cheers to Route 66

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, living a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. You can connect with her through
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