“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Emerson
The majority of human communication is unspoken. We send messages through our eyes, gestures, maybe even with unconscious signals like smells or energy. As I discovered during my arduous journey towards Spanish fluidity – non-verbal communication, like language, is culturally relative. Part of my Spanish language acquisition was learning the non-verbal cues and gestures that go along with it.
I asked the handsome Lucas and famous Ale to demonstrate some simple Argentine non-verbal signals.
The common salutation between friends and strangers alike is the ‘beso’ – an air kiss on the right cheek. Some variations include lips to cheek, to show more affection, or combining the beso with a soft grasp on the arm, shoulder or elbow. This invasion of personal space can be awkward for a North American, so to counteract this feeling I recommend always initiating the beso. You will feel more in control and be well received.
“No tengo idea”
When something perplexing is presented this facial contortion represents a listener’s confusion. If you have a strong accent, you will become all too familiar with this response.
If you would like to indicate that someone is insane, place your pointer finger to your temple.
When someone does something stupid, there is no better way to shame them then by biting your lip, down-casting your eyes and shaking your head in disappointment. Notice how naturally it comes to Lucas, he has a lot of practice.
“Ojo los chicos Vivi.” My boyfriend and every other man I’ve ever encountered in Buenos Aires have told me. It’s a teasing warning to beware of the trouble one might befall in this city, should one be easily persuaded by sweet-talking men.
Of course many other non-verbal cues seem to be universal – the middle finger, the shoulder shrug and the wink – won’t be mistaken or confused.
Readers – any experiences misinterpreting non-verbal cues? Share your stories!