differences in non-verbal communication wordwide
I'm doing a presentation at the university about differences in non-verbal communication in intercultural situations (all kinds of gestures, signs of agreement or disagreement, eye contact...)

So I'm interested to read your experiences:
when did you misunderstand people because they used a different non-verbal "code",
what situations where you misunderstood,
and what was the results.

Would be nice to know where you're coming from and where your conversational partner came from.

Thanks in advance,

Your mind is like a parachute - it won't work if it's not open
Can't give any personal experiences but you should definitely read (if you haven't already); People Watching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language - by Desmond Morris (Vintage Press, Random House) ISBN: 0-099-42978-0

He has a number of chapters relating exactly to what you're talking about.

Nil desperandum
Thanks for the advice, tking!
Didn't know this one yet.

Your mind is like a parachute - it won't work if it's not open
On my first visit to Fiji I tried flagging down a bus by waving at it .... everyone on board laughed and waved back as the bus zoomed by without stopping. A local then showed me the correct way, by holding the arm down and making a kind of scratching motion with the hand, a gesture that's not really noticeable in N. America.

Prolonged eye contact in the S. Pacific is considered bad manners, whereas we tend to think that those who don't look you in the eye are being shifty and dishonest.

South Pacific Photos
Once years ago when George Bush Senior was visiting Australia he was met by a lot of anti-Bush demonstrators. He gave them the V-sign and turned his hand so the back of his hand was turned towards the demonstrators, basically giving them the finger but could claim ignorance (presidents can't go around giving the finger).
Making the OK sign with the hand in Brazil has pretty much the same meaning.

Why fly when you can travel surface! Bon Voyage!
The indian head wobble - instead of shaking the head (no) or nodding (yes) indians do this weird side to side head wobble thing when you ask them a question. Unfortunately the actaul meaning of the wobble was often unclear - was it "yes"? was it"no"? Generally it meant something like "what you ask is possible, but only if a) I can be arsed, b) you have the money, c) I can wake up my brother in law and get him to drive you there, d)the gods are willing" etc etc. It led to a most frustrating series of encounters with the indian resolutely wobbling his head and us trying desparately to get a definitive "yes" or "no". Very funny though!
Hey, that was a lot of things I hadn't heard so far - great!
Thank you all, and go on if you have some more...!


Your mind is like a parachute - it won't work if it's not open
Yeah, I found the Indian head waggle to be really tough to get used to. It sometimes means yes, but it looks like "maybe," and often means something like "it can be done provided you're willing to pay me enough."

In much of Asia, "come here" is indicated by holding the arm out, hand down with fingers bent, and making a sort of scratching motion. Took a while to figure that one out.