Affirmative & Negative Responses
People in Merida have a variety of gestures and non-verbal language behaviors that are important to communication. These gestures differ from those that are commonly used in the United States. Some of the gestures are simply different ways of expressing the same idea that also exists in the United States. For example, Americans express a definitive “no” or “stop” by shaking their heads or raising one hand.In the Yucatan, to express the same concept, people raise the forefinger finger and move it back and forth laterally.
Likewise, both Americans and Yucatecans have simple non-verbal ways to communicate “Yes.” In the US people nod their heads. In the Yucatan, in addition to nodding, people use the following hand gesture.
Overall, the Yucatecans seem to have a few extra gestures for communicating neagtive or positive responses. This shows that Yucatan people have polite and subtle yet stern ways to communicate. We think that perhaps this gives us more evidence that the Yucatan sociaety has a higher level of interaction and public life.
We also observed Yucatecan gestures and body langauge that signify concepts that are not as prevalent in the United States. For example, it is common practice for men to publicly acknowledge a woman in his proximity by making various comments, noises, or gestures. This dynamic is different from male-female interactions in the US because in the Yucatan, this appears to be a sign of appreciation whereas in the US this carries disrespectful connotations. For the most part, when a Yucatecan man hisses and gestures at a woman he usually is not harrassing or actively pursuing that woman. Instaed, he is saying somethign like, “Look, a pretty woman is passing by.” These popular language samples gives us a clue into how women are percived by Yucatecan men.
Another difference in body language between the United States and the Yucatan is social kissing. In general in the U.S., people usually shake hands when they meet for the first time. After that people usually wave or just make verbal greetings. And if people are very close to one another, they might hug on special occassions. For the most part, Americans seem to have a low level of physical interaction when communicating. Furthermore, Americans seem to maintain more personal space and communicate with more distance between them.
In the Yucatan people also shake hands when they meet for the first time. However, after this, they exchange one kiss on the cheek. Some people with more European influence exchange one kiss on each cheek. Kissing only occurs between men and women and women and women. Men never kiss one another. They continue to shake hands. Only on very important occasions with very intimate company do people hug.
Greeting with a kiss is a social courtesy that occurs regardless of the true realtion between the people. For instance. if someone doesn’t really like anotehr person in the group, they will still kiss them goodbye.
The prominence of social kissing in Yucatecan culture is another window into the way people perceive their realtion to one anotehr In contrast to Amercans, Yucatecans seem to have a much smaller personal “bubble”