Across America the population is becoming much more diverse than ever before in our nation’s history. At any mall it has become commonplace to see a diversity of cultures. Merchants and customers represent ethnic cultures from around the world as they buy and sell in the same marketplace. The same diversity is found in many workplaces.
Interestingly these cultures have different perspectives on touching others.
In Asia it is considered disrespectful to touch an older person on the head, back, or shoulders. Even if the intent is to show respect or to comfort the person the act of touching these areas conveys insult.
When exchanging business cards, handling the card is considered the same as touching the individual. Great care should be given to the business card by grasping the card with both hands, admiring it, and then placing it in your pocket closest to your heart. Also remember it is extremely rude to write on the business card, fold it, or to place it in your back pocket.
In the Middle East greeting people without touching can be an insult. Men and women will great others with kisses on each cheek. This is unlike Asia and the Pacific Rim where kissing others is typically limited to kissing the hand of the eldest person in a family – your family or one that is hosting you for a visit.
In much of the Middle East It is rude to not hold the hand of a friend of the same gender while walking down the street. However, it is inappropriate, and could violate local law, to publicly hold hands with a friend of the opposite gender – even punishable by death in some nations.
Publicly touching in France is normal. It is normal to touch while greeting someone, if you agree with them, or to make a point. The touching is not violent of considered an invasion of personal space as it is expected. In a study done by Jourard (1966) in Paris recorded an average of 110 touches by friends or parents in cafes as compared to 2 touches at coffee shops in Miami. Interestingly observers found that touching in Miami was more aggressive 37 percent of the time. Italy and Greece had high rates of touching while Australia, New Zealand, and England were more aligned with the Miami touch rates. Additional studies in later years found similar results.
Touching How touching others is viewed around the world