Body language

I remember so well my 5th grade teacher talking about body language. She used the example of when she had parent/teacher meetings--which she admitted could sometimes be really stressful--what a difference the positioning of her arms made in terms of how well the conversation went. If she crossed her arms and sat across from the parents at her desk, things went badly. But if she left her arm to lie across the table, her hands open, or if she scooter her chair around, things went entirely differently. She could say the exact same thing, and get a very different response just by changing her body language.

Anthropologists say that body language is not universal, and of course I believe them that there are some tribes in the Amazon that express joy by punching things. But I have been rather relieved to find that,  unlike the Icelandic spoken language, getting fluent in Icelandic body language was pretty darn easy. In fact I think I have not even noticed much of a difference in body language, like for instance in personal space, between Icelanders and Californians. We keep about the same distance from one another. So that was good. And gestures, I think there is a shared language of Germanic gestures such that I have not found myself making any wildly inappropriate gestures since I have moved here. Icelanders seem also to use the same body language when they want to be open, friendly, and approachable. And that has helped a lot.

It is in fact, for someone like me, those silent signs of acceptance that mean more than anything. I do not need someone to say, "Vertu hjartanlega velkomin" (because frankly I am not sure if I am then supposed to say "takk fyrir" or "sömuleiðis" or "mikið var þetta heiður", etc.) The less formal performative linguistic situations I have to deal with in Icelandic, the happier I am.


Anonymous said…
Takk fyrir, og bros, virkar fínt :)
Jon Frimann said…
Ég er hvorki góður að lesa líkamstjáningu, eða skilja hana. Það kemur til vegna þess að ég er með Asperger heilkenni.

Þannig er það bara, og ég verð að lifa með því.
Lissy said…
My favorite thing about being rather good at reading body language is that it means I get along just fine with people who are not good at it. Like my uncle Oli, who also has Asperger.

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