Uploaded by Jester Alob

Non-verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication
Non-Verbal Communication
There are three major phyletic groupings in Malaysia, the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians. There are
also several other horde and gens of the native race in West and East Malaysia.
There are many types of non-verbal communication which including space and distance, physical contact,
facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact. Most of the Malaysians have the most common gestures and
facial expression. They tend to avoid speaking in a loud voice and standing while being introduced to
someone. They will look at each other in the eyes while communicating.
For gestures of non-verbal communication, people would tend to make some hand movements that
some symbols such as lifting one of the fingers of the opposite hands, place softly or pointing softly and
For personal appearance, people tend to find a way of grooming themselves. The traditional Malay
of 'Salam' resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands,
touches his friend's outstretched hands, and then brings his hands to his chest to mean, " I greet you from
heart". The visitor should require the "Salam". "Salam" is not practiced by the rest of the community
so a normal handshake will do.
Greeting gestures of Malays
These are gestures of non-verbal communication that Malays would do to emphasize the contents for
people to understand.
Greeting gestures of Chinese
Greeting gestures of Indians
Furthermore, most of the Malaysians rely on non-verbal communication which tends to be more subtle,
indirect whereas they do make hints or implying at a point instead of making a direct statement. This
the person showing demands and maintaining harmony in their relationship.
Physical Contact: It is generally inappropriate to touch strangers in Malaysia. Avoid
backslapping or putting your arm around people's shoulders. Incidental touching (for
example, in a crowd) is permitted. However, generally, people are not very
accustomed to physical affection from anyone that isn’t a close friend or family
member. Furthermore, being a predominantly Muslim population, Malaysian society
generally respects a separation of the genders. Therefore, it is seen as especially
awkward and inappropriate to affectionately touch someone of the opposite gender in
Silence: Silence is an important and purposeful tool used in Asian communication.
Pausing before giving a response indicates that someone has applied appropriate
thought and consideration to the question. This signifies politeness and respect.
The Head: Malaysians consider the head to be the most sacred part of one’s body.
Therefore, it is considered very rude and inconsiderate to touch another person’s
Pointing: Avoid pointing with your index finger and use your open hand instead.
Beckoning: Beckoning is done by facing the palm of the hand to the ground and
waving the fingers towards oneself. Individual fingers should not be used in this
Feet: The feet are considered the lowliest and dirtiest parts of the body. Do not move
objects with them or display the soles of your feet to someone else.
Hands: There is a separation of the function of the hands in Malaysia, influenced by
Islamic culture. The left hand is considered unclean and is used for the removal of
dirt and for cleaning. It is not used for actions such as waving, eating or offering
Eye Contact: Malaysians generally avoid holding direct eye contact with people of
the opposite gender out of modesty. They may also lower their gaze when talking to
someone older than them.
Bow: People non-verbally say ‘excuse me’ when entering/leaving/passing people by
bowing slightly.
Body Language: Placing one’s hands on their hips or in their pockets during
conversation indicates anger.
BRUNEI Asia Map World Map
Man greeting Man – Firm handshakes with the right hand are the most common form of
greeting. They are usually not too prolonged. Many people use a two-handed
handshake when greeting and departing
Woman greeting Woman- Two kisses on the cheek if they are acquainted, but if not, a
gentle handshake using both hands, and just a slight nod of acknowledgment will do
Greetings between Men & Women - While handshakes are a common form of greeting,
many times a simple nod or slight bow will do as many men and women generally do not
engage in physical contact. To be sure, let the woman offer her hand first.
Note: It is taboo for religiously observant men to touch women and vice-versa.
Physical Contact: Physical contact in Cambodia is acceptable among people of the
same gender but is usually minimal. This may include holding hands and hugging.
Public displays of affection between couples, such as kissing, are generally not
shown. Buddhist monks are forbidden to engage in any physical contact with women.
Personal Space: The general distance between two people conversing is an arm’s
length. When in conversation with a friend or close acquaintance, this distance is
Pointing: Pointing with a single finger is rude and accusatory. Some Cambodians
may use their mouth to point by making a kissing or pouting gesture towards the
Eye Contact: Indirect eye contact tends to be the norm in most situations. Direct eye
contact should be diverted every now and again to soften the interaction; intense eye
contact can be viewed as a challenge to the other person. When being instructed or
spoken to by a superior or someone who is older, it is respectful to lower one’s eyes.
Women may avoid making direct eye contact with a male by focusing their eyes on
the ground.
Beckoning: The common way to beckon someone is by gesturing with the hand
facing downwards and waving fingers towards oneself, the same gesture that would
represent ‘shooing’ in Australia. The gesture for ‘shooing’ is stronger and faster,
emphasizing the hand away from the body, whereas the gesture for beckoning is
softer and slower with the hand moving towards the body.
Smiling: While Cambodians often smile in conversations, the meaning of a smile
tends to depend on the situation. At times, a smile may indicate happiness or
pleasure, while other times it may be a polite response to a statement or question
that they do not understand. In some circumstances, a smile is used as an attempt to
cover awkwardness, embarrassment or sadness.
Silence: Silence is an important and purposeful tool used in Asian communication.
Pausing before giving a response indicates that someone has applied appropriate
thought and consideration to the question. This signifies politeness and respect.
Personal Space: Indonesians are generally accustomed to having less personal
space than Australians as public spaces (in the cities especially) can be very
crowded. People commonly sit and stand closer to one another, however, what
privacy can be afforded is respected.
Physical Contact: Indonesians are generally quite modest regarding physical
contact. While a pat on the shoulder can signify comfort or approval, physical
affection is usually only shown between close friends and family. Practicing Muslims
may be uncomfortable touching the opposite gender in any way unless they are a
close friend or relative. Indonesian men generally do not touch older women in public
at all aside from a handshake.
Eye Contact: It is expected that one diverts their eyes out of respect when speaking
to someone older or of a higher social status. Indonesians tend to make direct eye
contact with their peers but still break the gaze quite frequently. They may feel
awkward holding prolonged eye contact and divert their eyes when speaking with
Westerners, however people from the cities are generally more accustomed to it.
Hands: There is a separation of the function of the hands in Indonesia, influenced by
Islamic culture. The left hand is considered unclean and is used for the removal of
dirt and cleaning. Therefore, it is not used for actions such as waving, eating or
offering items.
The Head: The head is considered the purest part of an Indonesian’s body and
should never be touched. When Indonesians pass people of superior status on the
street, they may lower their head below the height of that person as a sign of respect.
Feet: The feet are considered the lowliest part of a person’s body. Displaying the
soles of one’s feet to another person is considered rude and improper. Similarly,
placing one’s feet on top of the table is not unacceptable.
Hands-on Hips: Holding one’s hands on one’s hips can signal anger.
Pointing: For traditional Javanese people pointing is done with the thumb instead of
the index finger.
Physical Contact: Physical contact in Laos is acceptable among people of the same
gender but is usually minimal. Between men and women, affection is rarely shown in
public. Similarly, it is forbidden for a woman to directly touch a Buddhist monk. A
couple may hold hands with one another depending on where they are located. Lao
tend not to touch others during conversations.
Personal Space: The general distance between two people conversing is an arm’s
length. When conversing with a superior or elder, Lao tend to stand over an arm’s
length apart. Meanwhile, when conversing with a close friend or family, personal
space is usually shorter.
Eye Contact: Direct eye contact with the gaze occasionally diverted is common in
most situations. When conversing with a superior or elder, one usually would not
make direct eye contact unless the superior one initiates it first. When a woman,
particularly younger women, are in a conversation with a man, she may avoid making
direct eye contact by keeping her gaze directed to the ground.
Smiling: Lao tend to have a variety of smiles that each indicate different emotions or
feelings. Some smiles indicate happiness, while some may be an attempt to cover
awkwardness or embarrassment.
Pointing: To indicate a direction, one usually points with their entire hand.
Beckoning: The common way to beckon someone is by gesturing with all fingers
facing downwards and towards oneself.
Passing: Passing in between two people should be avoided. In circumstances when
this is not possible, usually one will ask permission to pass through and bow slightly
so that their head is lower than those of the other two people conversing.
Physical Contact: In Vietnam, it is not appropriate to touch strangers unless it is
unavoidable. People also generally don’t hug one another or show any physical
affection to the opposite gender in public. Avoid backslapping and putting your arm
around someone's shoulder. However, people of the same gender may be
affectionate with one another walk if they are good friends (i.e. walking hand in
Pointing: Avoid pointing at people and things with your index finger; this is
considered disrespectful. Use your open hand instead.
Beckoning: To beckon, use your open hand rather than your index finger. To use a
single forefinger with the palm facing up has offensive and threatening connotations
to adults and children.
Arms: It can be considered rude to stand with your hands on your hips or cross your
arms when having a regular conversation with someone.
The Head: The head is considered the most sacred part of a person’s body. It is
offensive to touch another person’s head or pass something over it. Forcing
someone’s head to touch the ground would be an extremely disrespectful (and
possibly unforgivable) act.
Feet: Feet are considered the lowliest or ‘dirtiest’ part of the body. Displaying the
soles of one’s feet, resting them on tables, or exposing them to others is considered
Expressions: The Vietnamese commonly show less emotion in their faces as they
communicate and often adopt a somber expression unless something clearly joyful is
happening. Avoid interpreting this as unfriendly.
Eye Contact: It is respectful to defer eye contact away from those who are of the
opposite gender, a higher status or older than you. However, direct eye contact is
held and expected with one’s peers.
Smiling: Smiling can have many connotations in Vietnamese culture. It’s often done
to modestly acknowledge what another person is saying without seeming too overenthusiastic. The Vietnamese may also smile or laugh quietly when talking about
painful or awkward experiences. This is a way of non-verbally apologizing for the
listener’s possible discomfort and diffusing it. Similarly, people may smile when
embarrassed, apologetic, frustrated or nervous, so consider that a person smiling in
a serious situation may not always be doing so out of happiness or pleasure.
Gestures: The symbol for ‘okay’ in Western culture (with the forefinger and the top of
the thumb meet to form a circle, with the other fingers stretched out) means ‘poor
quality’ in Vietnam.
Silence: Silence is an important and purposeful tool used in the communication style
of most Asian countries. Pausing before giving a response indicates that someone
has applied appropriate thought and consideration to the question. It reflects
politeness and respect.
Pointing: Pointing with the index finger is rude. Rather, people point by using their
whole hand or nod their heads in the intended direction.
Body Language: It is common for Singaporeans to nod a lot during interactions;
however, their body language is generally quite modest with gestures being
infrequent and restrained.
Physical Contact: Singaporeans are generally less accustomed to a receiving lot of
physical affection from strangers and tend to reserve touching (such as backslapping, hugging and holding hands) for close friends. Public displays of affection
amongst couples are not always appreciated. However, Singaporeans are generally
used to accidental touching (i.e. on public transport) due to how crowded the country
Eye Contact: Eye contact shows confidence and attentiveness in most scenarios.
However certain Singaporeans (e.g. particularly Muslim Malays, some Hindus) may
avert their eyes more often, particularly when interacting with those superior to them.
Holding eye contact for too long can be interpreted as impolite or challenging.
Silence: Silence is an important and purposeful tool used in Asian communication.
Pausing before giving a response indicates that someone has applied appropriate
thought and consideration to the question. It reflects politeness and respect.
Head: It is considered disrespectful and offensive to touch someone’s head.
Physical Contact: Among relatives or friends of the same gender, it is common for
Filipinos to walk hand in hand or arm in arm. This is generally done so as a sign of
affection, friendship or if they are shy and would like someone to accompany them.
Filipinos tend to be modest and conservative in their interactions with their significant
other, and public displays of affection among couples (such as kissing or hugging)
are quite uncommon.
Personal Space: When interacting with people they are familiar with; Filipinos tend
to prefer standing at an arm's length from one another. Around strangers, this
distance is farther. However, in public areas like a market or subway, personal space
is often limited and pushing is common.
Laughter: While Filipinos often laugh in conversations, the meaning of laughter
tends to depend on the situation. At times, laughing may indicate happiness or
pleasure, while other times it may be used to relieve tension. In some circumstances,
laughter is used as an attempt to cover embarrassment.
Pointing: Filipinos may point to objects by puckering their lips and moving their
mouths in the direction they are pointing to.
Gestures: Putting one’s hands on their hips is a sign of anger.
Beckoning: The common way to beckon someone is by gesturing with the hand
facing downwards and waving fingers towards oneself, the same gesture that would
represent ‘shooing’ in Australia. If a Filipino wants someone’s attention, it is common
for them to make a sound like ‘pssst’.
Etiquette and Customs in Brunei
Meeting Etiquette
The common greeting depends upon the ethnic origin and the age of the person.
In general, many men you meet will have adopted the western concept of shaking hands,
although this is not always the case with older Bruneians or with women.
Ethnic Malay men shake hands with one another, but men and women do not traditionally shake
Younger Bruneians may shake hands with foreign women, or they may merely bow their heads
in greeting.
It is considered respectful to bow your head when someone who is senior to yourself in age or
It is considered disrespectful and rude to stare into another person's eyes, particularly those of a
person who is senior to you in age or status.
Gift Giving Etiquette
If invited to someone's home for dinner bring good quality chocolates or fruit.
Do not give toy dogs to children.
Do not give anything made of pigskin.
If giving foodstuffs, ensure there is no gelatin or any other ingredient which is not ‘halal’. Also,
ensure that food wrappings do not include any images which might be Islamically offensive.
Avoid white wrapping paper as it symbolizes death and mourning.
Offer gifts with the right hand only or both hands if the item is large.
Gifts are generally not opened when received.
Dining Etiquette
For the most part, Bruneians do not invite foreigners into their homes.
If you are invited to a Bruneian home, consider it a great honor and testament to your personal
Punctuality is not strictly adhered to. You may arrive a little late without causing offense.
Shoes are generally removed before entering a house.
Greet the eldest person first.
Wait to be told where to sit.
It is considered good manners to accept an offer of food or a beverage. Turning down hospitality
may be viewed as a personal rejection.
Wait to be invited to eat before starting.
Food is often served buffet style or on a revolving tray in the center of the table.
The guest of honor may be served first or the eldest person may.
Do not eat with the left hand, as it is considered unclean.
Eat or pass food with your right hand only.
Many Malays eat with their fingers. Alternatively, they may serve cutlery for foreign guests,
usually a fork and a tablespoon.
If passing a plate that is heavy, you may use your left hand to support your right wrist.
When you are finished eating, place your fork facing downward on your plate with your spoon,
also facing downward, crossed over the fork.
Bruneian Business Etiquette and
Meeting and Greeting
Greetings should be formal and demonstrate respect and deference.
It is important to introduce the most important person on your team first.
Handshakes tend to be light. Bruneian men often raise their hands to the heart after shaking
hands. o o Most Bruneians do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex.
Foreign businesswomen should nod their heads in greeting.
Foreign businessmen should wait to see if a Bruneian woman extends her hand first.
Titles are important and can be confusing. Bruneians can have as many as 20 words in their
titles. o Titles such as “Pengiran” with several different words following it, “Awangku” and
“Dayangku” indicate the person is related to the royal family.
It is acceptable to address someone with a title by their title alone.
Honorific titles are “Awang” for a man and “Dayang” for a woman. The abbreviations for these
titles are “Awg” and “Dyg” respectively.
Business cards are typically exchanged after introductions and handshakes.
Present the card with both hands or with the right hand and the left hand supporting the right
Give a business card to each person you meet.
Examine any business card you receive before putting it in your business card case.
The respect you show someone's business card is indicative of the respect you will show the
person in the business.
It is considered a breach of etiquette to write on a person’s business card in their presence.
Communication Style
Bruneian communication is formal and respectful, especially to those seniors in age or position.
Hierarchy is revered, so older businesspeople should be greeted before younger ones.
As in much of Asia, group harmony is vital. Therefore, the communication style tends to be
indirect and somewhat ambiguous. This is done to avoid embarrassing someone or causing
either party to lose face. If you are from a more direct culture, you may find the use of evasive
responses or insincere yeses frustrating.
Most Bruneians find emotions such as impatience, anger, or irritation embarrassing and try to
avoid them. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the foreigner to refrain from showing his/her
Bruneians commonly ask what would be considered intrusive personal questions such as about
wages or the like. If you are uncomfortable discussing such matters, it is important to handle the
matter diplomatically so neither party loses face. Such conversations are meant to get to know
you as a person, they are not meant to make you uncomfortable.
The tone of voice, body language, eye contact, and facial expression can often be more
important than what is said. Therefore, it is important to observe the person as they speak.
Business Meetings
It is important to advise Bruneian counterparts in advance of who will be attending the
meeting. This allows them to organize counterparts at the same level. It is also a good
idea to send a brief business biography of each person.
When entering a room, it is important that the most senior person on your team enter the room
first. Doing so gives a face to both parties since it demonstrates respect towards the Bruneian
It is quite common for the most senior person from each side to sit opposite each other at the
Typically, most senior Bruneians will offer a brief welcoming speech. Although you need not do
the same, having a few welcoming words will brand you as a competent leader.
Once the introductions are complete and everyone is seated, there will be a period of small talk
to enable all parties to become more comfortable with each other. It will end when the most
senior Bruneian feels comfortable discussing business. Do not rush the process or you risk
permanently harming your business relationship.
At the first meeting between two companies, Bruneians often do not get into in-depth
discussions. They prefer to use the first meeting as an opportunity to get to know the other side
and build a rapport, which is essential to them.
Meetings may extend into business meals, although business will generally not be discussed.
Nonetheless, this getting-to-know-you time is vital in developing and fostering a good working
relationship and therefore it is important that you remain professional.
Like most Asian cultures, Bruneians are indirect communicators who are equally concerned with
the message as with the way it is delivered. Since they avoid politely and go out of their way to
confrontation, they attempt to speak in a manner where both parties retain face. They will
attempt to avoid communicating anything directly that would hurt or offend another since doing
so would cause a loss of "face". They will gently push their ideas forward and wait for others to
respond. If they disagree with an idea, they will generally remain silent rather than speak up.
Therefore, it is important to watch for silences and body language.
Since Bruneians have difficulty giving an absolute negative response, they have many ways of
giving a non-committal "yes". Phrases such as "it is inconvenient," or "we shall see" generally
indicate a negative response.
Given the difficulty in saying “no”, it is a good idea to phrase questions so that an affirmative
response can be given. If you are unsure what an answer means or think that it may be a noncommittal agreement, ask the question in another fashion to see what response you receive.
It is important to remember that nodding the head does not always indicate agreement; it may
simply be an acknowledgment that you have spoken. This can be disconcerting for people from
more western cultures who translate the gesture differently.