#2013-4 How to read international body language, Part 1: Face it!

Americans are getting a failing grade when it comes to communicating with speakers of other languages. While countries around the world teach their children English from a young age, we don’t encourage those skills until our kids reach middle or high school. Does that make those other children smarter? No. But it shows that they are more aware of the importance of communication with cultures other than their own.

What none of us learn in school is a completely different communication tool—body language. You know that when someone smiles, they’re happy and a nod means agreement. And, of course, eye contact is important to maintain.

Throw all that out the window when you’re communicating with homebuyers from other cultures. Body language is not universal. Here are a few examples:

  • Smiling is perceived as thoughtlessness to many Asian cultures, including Japanese and Korean.
  • People from Latin American and many European countries hold strong eye contact but Asian and Middle Eastern cultures are uncomfortable with it.
  • Hondurans may nod to give you the answer you want, but they don’t necessarily mean “yes.”
  • Peruvians tap their heads to indicate “I’m thinking.”
  • People from Hong Kong will say “yes” to mean “I heard you” or “I understand”, and may not be giving you an affirmative answer.
  • A wink is offensive to the Taiwanese and Indian people.
  • Touching your nose is insulting to an English person.
  • For a Greek, an upward nod of the head means “no” and a sideways tilt of the mean indicates “yes”.
  • Russians don’t like whistling indoors.

There are many gestures, expressions, and movements that might mean the difference between closing or losing a sale with someone of a different culture. Subtle movements that seem innocent enough to Americans could be offensive to others. It’s important that we take the time to learn international body language in order to maximize the staggering opportunity ahead for selling new homes to our growing population of New Americans. At the end of my ebook, New Home Sales Training: Selling New Homes In a Multicultural America”, I’ve included a detailed list of do’s and don’t’s according to country.

And come back here to learn more about this exciting niche for new home sales professionals!

Next: How to read international body language, Part 2: Making the right first impression

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