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Intercultural Communication
Lecture 4: verbal and nonverbal communication


Addressing (How many ways to address Linell Davis: A Doctor and a Professor in Nanjing University) Greetings (how are you getting on? how are things going?) Visiting (principles in business visiting)




Compliments ( W h a t a r e t h e d i f f e r e n t w a y s of com pl im e nt s bet ween t he Ch in ese and t he westerners ?) Partings
The fixed Cultural Assumption Expressions of gratitude and aplology

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Verbal Communication:

Culturally loaded words
Cultural reflections on proverbs and taboos

Nonverbal Communication:
Time language Space language Body language Paralanguage

Warm-up cases (verbal communication)

Case 1
It is said that in Rome, in front of a shoe store, there was such a sign to attract English-speaking customers: Shoes for street walking. Come in and have a fit. The sign caught the attention of many English-speaking tourists, but not to look at the shoes displayed in the windows, but to read the sign and then break out into laughter. The Italian shop owner did not realize that "a street walker" means a prostitute, while "to have a fit" does not mean to have a try, but to become suddenly and violently angry or upset. No wonder the amusement and laughter!

Why did the Italian shop owner make such a mistake ?

Case 2
Roger was the Personnel Executive (人事执行员) of a large American multinational firm. In 1996, Roger was working in Brazil to help promote their business. One evening, there was a party, attended by both his employees from the United States and many Brazilian business people. At the party, Roger bumped into Rosalita, a Brazilian woman he had known for some time. Roger generally had a very good impression of Rosalita and always felt at ease with her, so that he felt free to tell jokes and share personal thoughts, and talk about Brazil and Brazilian life without having the worries of offending Rosalita.

During the party, Rosalita said to Roger, "I'd like to introduce you to one of my good friends. She is a very capable woman and is presently thinking of working in a joint venture so she can provide a better living for her large family. She is very much interested in your company." Hearing that, Roger smiled and replied, "Ok, but I just hope I don't get hustled." Unfortunately, Roger's replay made Rosalita quite upset. Very soon she excused herself as politely as she could, and did not speak with Roger for the rest of the evening. Question for discussion: Roger was confused by Rosalita's behavior. Could you give him an explanation ?


The problem resulted from the misunderstanding of the word "hustle". In colloquial American English, there are at least two meanings for the word "hustle". As a Personnel Executive of a large American multinational firm, Roger must have attended many parties. At these parties, he will always encounter people eager to get a job from him in his company, so he often gets hustled. This is just what Roger was implying to Rosalita regarding her friend. However the word "hustle" has another meaning in which romance or sex is hinted. Rosalita must have thought Roger was referring to this and considered it as an insult to her friend.



Culturally loaded words

What is culturally loaded words?
Loaded words and phrases are those which have strong emotional overtones (n. 暗示,弦 外音,寓意) or connotations (n. 涵义,言外之 意 ), and which evoke strongly positive or negative reactions beyond their literal meaning.

Can you find the equivalent words in English for these Chinese words?

龙----- dragon
干部---- cadre 社会科学---- social science or the humanities


1. 龙

In Chinese culture, it is a totem with many royal associations a n d a symbol of power and prosperity. In English culture, dragon refers to horrible, disgusting monsters.

In Chinese culture, it represents a small group of people who are specially chosen and trained for a particular purpose.

In English culture, many people don’t know what it means. It is not a common word. There are Some other substitutes like official, functionary, administrator, etc.

Social Sciences in Chinese covers all the fields except the ones in the natural science and applied sciences. Same as “the humanities” in English.
While in English, “social sciences” cover a smaller area of learning. It includes political science, economics, history (often classified under the humanities) and sociology.

Questions for discussion

What makes the different understandings of the words that are considered the same in surface? How can we define the word "meaning" ? According to Semantics, the meaning of one content word is composed of "connotation meaning" and "denotation meaning" Connotation meaning is literal meaning while denotation meaning is associated with some social factors, such as "culture".


The proverbs that we can find the equal version both in Chinese and English

Man proposes, God disposes 尽人事,听天命。/ 谋事在人,成事在天


It is a sin to steal a pin


Revenge is a dish that could be eaten cold 君子报仇,十年不晚


Every dog has its day


The proverbs that we can not find the equal versions.

良药苦口利于病,忠言逆耳利于行 一人得道,鸡犬升天

An apple a day keeps the doctor away Let sleeping dogs lie

Lightening never strikes the same place twice
There are more than two Chinese versions: 福无双至? or 祸不单行? or 坏事不过二?

Please choose the proper words for each phrase
hare horse snail mouse bee mule

as busy as a bee ______
as slow as a snail ______ mule as stubborn as a ______ as timid as a hare ______ horse as strong as a ______ mouse as poor as a church _____

Definition: a cultural or religious custom that does not allow people to do, use or talk about a particular thing as people find it offensive or embarrassing.

? ? ? ? ? ?

Go or depart depart from this world go to a better world

go the ways of all flesh
pass away late In Chinese, we also can find similar euphemisms: “去 了”, “离开了我们”, “辞世”, “去见马克思了”, “归 西”,“升天”, “上路”

Nonverbal Communication

What is nonverbal communication ?
The process by which nonverbal

behaviors are used, either singly or in
combination with verbal behaviors.

Functions of nonverbal communication

Case 3 Left in the cold
Katherine came to Beijing in 2010 and found a job as an English teacher in a foreign language institute. Soon after her classes began, she found that her students showed no interest in her teaching style. Quite a few of them avioded attending her class. She was feeling quite upset and discouraged so she decided to ask the Director, Prof. Wang, for help. Prof. Wang reviewed his timetable and suggested they meet at ten o'clock on Thursday morning. When Thursday came, Katherine arrived at Prof. Wang's office at the exactly ten o'clock finding him talking with another teacher in Chinese. Seeing that she had come, Prof. Wang smiled and gestured her to sit down. Katherine sat down and the professor excused himself and continued to talk with the other teacher.

After five minutes, he finished his conversation, and apologized to katherine, and began to focus his attention on her situation. Prof. Wang showed great concern and asked her what the problem was. Just as she was discussing her problem, another Chinese teacher interrupted, with a form that required the Director's signature. The Director smiled, apologized to Katherine again, and turned to talk with the Chinese teacher in Chinese. katherine became impatient, and wondered why their discussion should be interrupted since she had made an appointment. Also, she was upset and frustrated that they continued, she was apparently unhappy about what had happened. How should you explain the Director's behavior toward Katherine? How would you make the Director understand why Katherine felt frustrated and angry?

Four types of nonverbal communication

Time language
Monochronic Time: punctuality and promptness
It is usually found in Northern American, Western and Northern European Cultures.


Polychronic Time: more flexible and humancentered

It is usually found in Latin American, African, Arab and most Asian cultures.

Space language
Spatial language refers to body distance and body touch. They vary with different cultures. Let's take the north American Zones of Space for example : (1) Intimate distance: 0-45 centimeters

(2) Personal distance: 45-80 centimeters (friends, acquaintances and relatives)
( 3 ) S o c i a l d i s t a n c e : 1 . 3 0 m e t e r s - 3 m e t er s (colleagues, busniesspartner, social gatherings) (4) Public distance: farther than 2 or 3 meters (generally for speakers in public and for teachers in classrooms)

Body distance in different cultures

Short Europeans Europeans

Mediterranean Northern Japanese


Medium Latins Americans


Long Arabs


Touch Culture VS. Non-touch Culture


Touch Culture: Cultures of Arabs, Southern and Western Europeans, Jews and Latins


Non-touch Culture : Cultures of Americans, Northern Europeans and Orientals

Body Language

Body language refers to the non-verbal behavior related to movement, either of any part of the body, or the body as a whole. In short all communicative body movements are generally classified as body language.

It can be classified into five types: posture, gestures, facial expression, eye contact and smell.

1. posture
What does their posture means?

The same posture in different cultures

In US, this posture means friendly;

comfortable and

In Arab and Thailand, the sole should never be pointed in the direction of another person;
In Germany, Sweden or China, it is a sign of rudeness and poor maners.

2. gestures
If we want to point to objects and people, we have different ways in different cultures as following: US: this gesture is OK In China: this gesture is rude

In German, we use the gesture on left picture and the gesture on right picture in Japan to convey the same meanig.

Nodding the head

In north America:

up and down: I agree
In the Middle East Nodding the head down: I agree up: I disagree In Japan: I am listening.

Sign of telling sb to come closer


3.Facial expressions

Mediterranean coultures: exaggerate signs of grief or sadness—men crying in public American: suppress the emotions
Japanese: hide expressions of anger, sorrow, or disappointment—laughing or smiling Chinese: control emotions—saving face

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American: a sign of happiness or friendly affirmation Japanese: mask an emotion or avoid answering a question Korean: too much smiling a shallow person Thailand: the land of Smiles




4. Eye contact

North Americans: direct eye contact means a sign of honesty
If not, a sign embarrassment of untruthfulness, shame or

Chinese: avoid long direct eye contact to show politeness, or respect, or obedience Japanese: prolonged eye contact is considered rude, threatening and disrespectful.

Latin American and Caribbean people: avoid a sign of respect

5. Smell

Filipinos: sensory-information gathering


Americans: feel umcomfortable with natural smells Many other cultures: natural odor is normal


Voice m od ul atio n c arr ies v ery str o ng emotional overtones;

Tempo in speech also illustrates cultural variation and can serve as an emotional indication; Volume varies with situations and across cultures; Silence is another element in voice modulation that indicates cultural divergence. It is interpreted as evidence of passivity, ingorance, apathy or hesitation in the



Read the stories and answer the questions:

(1) In 1959, Khrushchev, leader of the former Soviet Union, visited the United States. While boarding his plane to leave for the Soviet Union, he held up both of his hands, With one hand he gestured a "V" sign with his index finger and his middle finger, with the other a fist. He meant to show his respect to the American leaders and the news reporters. The next day, this picture was published on the front page of some American newspapers. Khrushchev's gestures were interpreted by the United States as the victory of the Soviet Union over the United States, causing a great political issue.

(2) Nixon, past president of the United States, once paid a visit to Brazil. While he was disembarking the plane, he made a gesture of "OK", which angered and insulted the Brazilians. The American gesture of "OK" is considered obscene in Brazil. In the end, Nixon formally apologized to the Brazilians.

Could you give more examples of gestures with different meanings ?

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