Thursday, August 20, 2009

non-verbal communication

I'm preparing a few worksheets about Dominican culture for the new DREAM volunteers who are coming next week. (Peace Corps gives us three months of cultural, language, and specialized skills training--DREAM gives its volunteers a week!) Anyway, I thought this handout about non-verbal communication might also make a good blog entry.




Finger-wag back and forth


This is very commonly used and is not rude. Use it like you would a head-shake no. It’s especially useful on the street—finger-wagging should put off most vendors and motoconchistas.


“I don’t understand”/ “What?”

If someone does this do you, start off by repeating whatever you just said.


“Look at me/listen to me”—attention-getter

Again—not at all rude here, although it may grate on American ears. You may grow accustomed to ignoring it, since it often comes from tigueres, but sometimes a Dominican friend will say, “Hey, I saw you in the street yesterday and you ignored me!”

Hand to opposite elbow


A little rude. A seller might use it if you are bargaining with too-low prices. A Dominican might use it to you to refer to someone else.

Lip-point (looks kind of like a kiss)

“Look at that” (whatever the lips are directed towards)

Not sexual or kissing-related at all. Just pointing, like with a finger.

Tapping temple


For example, if a student has a really good idea you can say “buen idea” and tap your forehead for emphasis.

Rubbing index fingers together, or one index finger on the thigh


Usually a man will do this to a woman on a bus or something. It’s a gross gesture; don’t acknowledge it. It could also be used in conversation between friends, like “Eh, Juan y Maria… (rub index fingers together)?” I.e. “Do you think Juan and Maria are hooking up?”

Use index finger to scribble in the air

“Check, please!”

Use this after making eye contact from afar with your waiter or waitress at a restaurant.

Congratulations! You have completed the equivalent of 20 minutes of DREAM volunteer training.

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