Cultural Miscommunication: A Research Of Smiling Phenomenon

If an individual wants to be acknowledged and trusted by his or her friends, all verbal and non-verbal messages should supplement one another. Basically, this implies none of the sent signs ought to go into struggle with another message sent in the meantime. For instance, a British individual saying 'yes' while scouring their head and raising their eyebrows may not give the message of 'yes' to the recipient yet rather a message of “I am stating yes, however, I am not by any stretch of the imagination beyond any doubt”. While the individual accepting the message comprehends something other than what is expected or rather what the sender planned, the sender does not regularly understand that the recipient has not comprehended their message in any case. The case of the British identifies the fact that different expressions and impressions communicate varying messages to different people, depending on the recipient’s cultural interpretation of these impressions. Instances of where individuals utilize clashing verbal and non-verbal signs, such as smiling, increase in intercultural collaborations. This is principally in light of the fact that a non-verbal message, for example, signals or outward appearances in a single culture can regularly mean something totally extraordinary in another, every now and again bringing about mistaken assumptions and disarray. The purpose and achievement of effective communication, thus, in intercultural interaction is dependent on the basic understanding of signs and symbols such as smiling and gestures.

Description of the Cultural Phenomenon

Smiles are something that can be misconstrued by individuals from various societies. Smiling in North America is generally an indication of satisfaction and certainty. In Russia, individuals frequently smile when they are upbeat or when something extremely clever happens yet you may discover they do not smile as much as their partners in North America. Furthermore, in numerous Asian societies, smiling is frequently a sign that they are humiliated or awkward (Jamal and Baldwin 90). Take the case of an American supervisor who was once visiting some business partners in China to praise the opening of another processing plant. The Chinese needed to make sure everything was consummately sorted out to truly inspire their new administrator so they booked the American chief in a decent lodging and composed loads of get-togethers at night. The morning after the primary night, the American director woke to find no boiling water in the inn. He went down to the gathering to grumble; however, he was welcomed with a smile. He was at that point disappointed about the circumstance and felt significantly increasingly baffled by the smiling reaction from the secretary. He later referenced the circumstance to his Chinese partners in disappointment and they as well smiled in kindness and gave a little expression of remorse. This circumstance did not essentially hurt the visit or relationship; however, it left the American chief very befuddled about their response. This is a model where a basic smile was totally confounded. The North American may have thought the Chinese assistant was smiling as they suspected the circumstance was clever however the Chinese secretary in all probability felt awkward and did not have an answer for the circumstance so was accordingly attempting to avoid loss of face.

Human conduct is best comprehended by seeing primates, especially gorillas, that additionally utilize outward appearances to speak with each other. The appearing 'quiet exposed teeth', which looks like the human smile, is commonly an indication of accommodation and intentionally performed by the substandard creature. Interestingly, happy, unconstrained snickering with a 'casual open mouth' is known as the 'play face'. This prompts the conclusion that smiling is definitely not an all-inclusive indication of positive feeling, yet rather a socially learned activity. In spite of the fact that it is accepted that smiling is a natural activity, for even fetuses smile in the belly and visually impaired children smile when resting or hearing a human voice, there is solid proof that smiling, to a huge degree, is a result of culture. Therefore, the 'language of a social specialty' is unknowingly and definitely penetrated into individuals from the earliest starting point. Indeed, even as a grown-up, individuals naturally reflect outward appearances of others subliminally, which prompts synchrony in gatherings. In this manner, a smiling face in a promotion unwittingly urges the observer to mirror the expression and, in the long run, feel positive about the item.

Consequences of Miscommunication of this Phenomenon

The trouble when studying smiling is that for an extensive stretch of time the vast majority of the examination has been conformed in social orders, which are do not represent the whole world. Moreover, it is imperative to remember that even inside an 'Odd' culture, there are close to home contrasts among people, for even Darwin referenced 'the huge class of boneheads who are ... continually smiling' adversely. In 'Abnormal' and low-setting social orders, smiling is commonly seen as a positive activity. In this way, it is important to concentrate on 'Non-Weird' and high-setting societies in the accompanying sections, in which smiling regularly has a negative meaning.

Intelligence and Cultural Assumptions among Nations and Societies

While in the USA it is viewed as well-mannered and inviting to welcome anybody with a smile, smiling at an outsider in Norway and Poland is viewed as crazy. In Russia, smiling or snickering with no reason is an indication of ineptitude. Hence, Russians will, in general, keep up genuine countenances, even in photos. As per Krys (101), smiling is regularly firmly connected to high vulnerability shirking. In contrast, debasement ruins the normally constructive meaning of smiling henceforth it prompts skepticism towards an individual's knowledge and reliability. Her investigation demonstrated the accompanying outcomes: Countries like Japan, Russia, and France evaluated the knowledge of smiling individuals low, though standard studies from Germany, China, and the UK appraised the knowledge of similar individuals as high. The genuineness of a smiling individual was denied in, for example, India, Argentina, and Indonesia and consoled in Switzerland, Australia, and the Philippines. Therefore, the view of a smile is not topographically or monetarily determined, but instead socially.

In the past research, much consideration was given to the juxtaposition of the USA and Japan or China. An investigation led by Ekman and Keltner discovered that US-Americans and Japanese showed comparable articulations when alone, yet the Japanese communicated more positive feelings within the sight of someone else. Besides, it is profoundly attached in Japanese culture to veil negative emotions with smiles. In this manner, the Japanese showcase more non-Duchenne smiles in business cooperation than Americans. In Japanese culture, more consideration is given to the declaration of the eyes as opposed to the mouth, for the eyes cannot suppress whether a smile is felt or faked. In Chinese culture, low-excitement positive states are esteemed over high arousal positive states. In this way, little smiles with shut lips are performed more often than open smiles. Moreover, the manner by which a pioneer plays out a smile frequently gives hints about his/her way of life.

In Indian, ladies should not smile amid their wedding so as to show female shy­ness. In any case, with the nonstop globalization of the world, this convention is gradually evolving. These days, non-smiling societies once in a while want to adjust while interacting with smiling ones. Moreover, some collectivistic Eastern nations are additionally influenced by Western independence. Accordingly, it is of extraordinary significance to know about various social discernments and elements of smiling. In the meantime, one ought not to form a hasty opinion about a culture's mentality towards smiling, and recollect that identity, conditions and intercultural capability additionally assume a critical job in correspondence.


Depending on the situation, there are two efficient methods that can be used to eliminate miscommunication through smiling. The first method requires that the individual be a visitor in a foreign nation with a culture that frowns upon smiling. In this situation, it is necessary that the individual familiarizes themselves with the ways of the natives. It is better to avoid disease altogether than to cure it, after all. The second method can be used by an individual who desired to derive information from another without forceful means. This requires the application of technology like the FACS (Facial Action Coding System) and EMG(electromyography), these techniques are used to distinguish emotional expressions.

How the Knowledge Gained From This Assignment Will Influence the Way to Interact With ELLs in the Classroom

This knowledge will be effective in the ELL applications because it will enable easier understanding and efficient or accurate interpretation of basic facial signals. In a class with a number of people hailing from different backgrounds, it is essential to understand their individual perspectives during interactions to minimize the risk of miscommunication. Furthermore, the issue of first impressions makes smiling both a barrier to effective communication and a propagator at the same time depending on the beholder. When associating with an ESOL student who hails from a background that frowns upon smiling, that is, it either assumes all who smile lack intelligence, are abnormal, are too feminine, or any other stereotype, an individual must learn to reciprocate their ideas before he or she tries to impart their own ideas on these students.

A teacher in an ESOL classroom has to learn to adjust accordingly. In regions where smiles are considered offensive, they must avoid causing disruptions by trying to reduce smiling if they hail from places that smiles are appreciated. In a reverse situation, the teacher must learn to accommodate the students who come from such regions. The teacher will try to ensure that the cultural diversity within the classroom is tolerable at minimum. If there are students who are put off by the smiles of others, the teacher has to enlighten the provoked student about the meaning behind the smile of the offending party. The teacher could also choose to inform the offender that their smiles are eliciting feelings of resentment. In addition, the teacher should culminate the situation by resolving the crisis. Therefore, as a teacher, it is prudent to share with the learners and find out their interpretation of smiling based on their backgrounds. This will avoid cases where smiling hurts students for wrong interpretation. Since it is the responsibility of the teacher to control and manage the class, he/she will also guide all students accordingly to enhance a healthy learning environment for everyone.

In addition to the above two points, smile also plays an important role in teaching. For immigrant students (especially younger students), it is easy to generate negative emotions, such as fear or tension, in a country that is unfamiliar and difficult to communicate with. Therefore, in the classroom, when ESOL teachers understand the background of students and confirm that their cultural background smile does not mean offense, teachers can use smiles to encourage or comfort them. For instance, when students are not proficient in using English to speak in class, teachers can use smiles to encourage them, which will alleviate the tension of students to some extent.


The smile in intercultural correspondence can be contrasted with a chess diversion, in which each culture and every individual has distinctive principles. In light of the former examination, it ends up evident that the significance and event of an individual's smile are socially dependent. Especially, the immense difference among 'Abnormal' and 'Non-Weird' social orders should be considered. It is fitting to remember control relations and sex contrasts, albeit further research concerning intercultural assortment is yet to be made in these fields. The careful correspondence, therefore, goes past normal presuppositions and requires the capacity of hearing what is not said. On account of smiling, this implies the familiarity with social contrasts in the capacity and perception of a smile is a key component of fruitful non-verbal correspondence.

Works Cited

  1. Chen, Chaona, and Rachael E. Jack. 'Discovering Cultural Differences (and Similarities) in Facial Expressions of Emotion.' Current Opinion in Psychology, vol. 17, no. 1, 2017, pp. 61-66.
  2. Jamal, Aamir, and Clive Baldwin. 'Angels of Mercy or Smiling Western Invaders? Community’s Perception of NGOs in Northwest Pakistan.' International Social Work, vol. 62, no. 1, 2019, pp. 89-104.
  3. Krys, Kuba, et al. 'Be Careful Where You Smile: Culture Shapes Judgments of Intelligence and Honesty of Smiling Individuals.' Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour, vol. 40, no. 2, 2016, pp. 101-116.
  4. Martin, Jared, et al. 'Smiles as Multipurpose Social Signals.' Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 21, no. 11, 2017, pp. 864-877.
  5. Wilson, Jessica. “What Is Facial EMG and How Does It Work?” IMotions, 2 Apr. 2019,
14 May 2021
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