In everyday life the way we express ourselves with our body language is very important. This is equally important when travelling abroad and when you may be coming into contact with people who have different cultures and customs. Follow our tips below for how to behave during your holiday.
Body language generally
Body language is a curious thing as when we are unable to communicate in any other way it can say a lot about the way we are feeling and is a way of expressing ourselves and maybe even making ourselves understood. It is quite possible however that a gesture or form of body language that is perfectly acceptable in one country will cause some sort of offence in another so its use should be careful and considered and it is important to understand what is and is not acceptable in the country you are visiting.
Where you are
What is and is not acceptable in terms of body language varies from country to country and although there seem to be fewer ‘rules’ in Europe about what is and is not allowed, there are still some. Whether you choose to have package holidays, skiing holidays or walking holidays in Europe there are some body language rules to be aware of. For example, in Italy you may observe lots of pushing in places that are crowded with people. This is perfectly normal and not considered to be rude. In France, most of the body language rules revolve around dining behaviour including ensuring your hands remain on the table and not in your lap and avoiding eating using fingers.
When you travel further than Europe, particularly to the East, then the rules about body language become more complex and harder to follow and understand. The Asian continent in particular has many rules that need to be followed in order to avoid causing offence. Whoever you are and whether you are on solo or family activity holidays or having an extended gap year break, you will need to follow the generally adopted rules of behaviour. These include refraining from doing anything with your feet (considered to be the lowest part of the body) including pointing or putting them on chairs or tables. Conversely you should also avoid touching the head (considered the highest part of the body).
Elsewhere, in Fiji it is possible to shake hands throughout a whole conversation and in Nepal stepping over someone’s outstretched legs is considered to be bad manners. Paying for something in Mexico without putting the money directly into the person’s hand is considered to be disrespectful; likewise giving the thumbs up sign to someone in the Middle East, Nigeria or some parts of South America can also be considered rude or showing a lack of respect, when in a country such as the UK it is perfectly acceptable.
It is clear that body language that may be acceptable in one country can be frowned upon in another, so the advice is clear. Make sure you check before you travel as to what is and is not acceptable then hopefully you will be able to have a successful trip that you can get through without offending anyone!
Anna Mathews writes regularly on travel for a range of travel websites and blogs. Her writing includes pieces about walking holidays in Europe and family activity holidays.