Non-Verbal Cues in the Culture

Non-Verbal Cues in the Culture





Non-verbal cues are an essential part of language and communication. They play a vital role in conveying messages to different parties. Therefore, understanding the elements of non-verbal cues is critical as it creates clarity, trust, and good rapport. Various non-verbal cues are incorporated in verbal speeches to facilitate communication among people (Xidirova, 2021). These are the body orientations or movements, facial expressions, movements and choice of objects, nuances of the voice, and dress details that intentionally make a statement or communicate a message. Different cultures embrace non-verbal cues to communicate and talk more about their culture. The handshake is a non-verbal cue incorporated by many cultures worldwide to communicate. More often than not, the handshake is used to pass greetings by most cultures and people. However, some cultures are quite different and unique in how they apply the handshake as a non-verbal cue and the message being conveyed. This paper focuses on the Islamic and American cultures, handshake as their non-verbal, how it’s incorporated in their respective cultures, and their meaning.


Non-verbal cues are an inevitable part of human life. Individuals encounter non-verbal cues in their day-to-day lives, whether they realize it or not. Through interactions in different environments, people receive or send non-verbal cues to convey their desired messages to other parties. A handshake is a common non-verbal cue embraced by various cultures to facilitate communication and proper understanding. Since cultures have different beliefs and practices, the handshake as a body language has a different meaning and therefore passes different messages altogether (Labuza, 2021). The duration, grip, and handshake expectations also vary in different cultures. A three-second-long rhythmic pattern is the standard duration of a handshake and sometimes a handwave. The aggressiveness of a handshake might convey a powerful and extreme message, whether positive or negative. This paper will discuss the handshake in the Islamic and American culture, its significance, and the message it is meant to convey.

The Islamic culture is a fascinating culture to explore and learn from. Muslims have other intriguing practices and beliefs besides the handshake that gives them a shared understanding and unites them as a community. The controversy and misunderstanding surrounding the handshake among Muslims has spotlighted the non-verbal cue (Eesa, 2019). It is crucial to understand that Muslims use the handshake to show a greeting, an agreement, and farewell, just like in other cultures. Handshake is known as ‘salaam’ in the Islamic culture. Most Muslims, if not all, do not engage in a handshake between their opposite genders (Рожкова, 2019). People of the same gender are comfortable and allowed to shake hands to pass a message. Muslims prohibit physical contact between people of the opposite gender because they believe it is unnecessary and a violation of what they stand for in terms of a woman’s purity. They attach a deeper meaning to physical social contact and should not be indulged with everyone.

According to the Muslim culture, men and women who are not intimately related are prohibited from any form of physical contact.For greetings, agreements, and farewell, they substitute with other verbal and non-verbal cues to communicate correctly and still maintain their culture and principles (Eesa, 2019). Religious demands principles demand that society be inclusive and considerate by allowing space for difference. However, emerging trends beyond the handshake like kisses and hugs as greetings have made it challenging for Muslims to practice this aspect of their culture (Рожкова, 2019). It would be difficult and unfair to ask or force Muslims to change their norms and conform to a handshake between people of opposite genders. For this reason, it is advised that when one meets a Muslim friend of the opposite gender, they should always take their time, watch their movements and let the Muslim friend take the lead on the form of greeting they lean towards.

Unlike the Muslim culture, the American culture embraces and uses the handshake regardless of the gender in play. The Americans have embraced the handshake as part of their culture. They are used in the initial stages and introductions of interactions. It is the most common form of greeting in America when individuals meet for the first time or in a professional setting. They shake hands in different environments to signify acceptance or express their friendliness to other people in the same setup (Labuza, 2021). A standard handshake in America should be firm while the players maintain direct eye contact throughout the greeting. This type of handshake is mainly used in business contexts to express formality. However, a formal handshake may seem awkward or over-formal in casual settings. In the event that the players in a handshake are friends, family, or are in an informal setup, then the handshake standards may change. What matters is the relationship, comfortability, and the environmental setting of the parties in play during a handshake.

Americans also use the handshake between the same or different genders to symbolize an agreement. During formal setups, especially in business, individuals shake hands to show agreements or an affirmation of honorable and valid deals. Employees and management shake hands upon an agreement as a symbol of unity. They are used to show successful negotiations and a sealed deal among parties or individuals in play (Lindhardt, 2021). Handshakes are also used in America to bid farewell. Individuals shake hands to say goodbye when they are parting ways. In this case, the attached meaning of a handshake can be used in formal and informal settings. It means that Americans shake hands while bidding goodbye in the office, family gathering, and even between friends. It shows that the respective parties in the handshake parted ways in good faith or maintained a neutral relationship.


It is undeniable that non-verbal cues are crucial for any form of communication. The handshake is one of the non-verbal cues that has facilitated communication among so many people of different cultures worldwide. Many cultures new to handshaking find it interesting and incorporate it mainly as a greeting. It has become the statement of intent among many people and should be incorporated into different cultures. However, it is essential to acknowledge and appreciate other non-verbal cues besides the American and Islamic cultures. People put a different meaning to different non-verbal cues depending on their culture and upbringing. It is essential to respect that and not force them to conform to other practices considered universally acceptable.


Eesa, A. P. (2019). Islamic Greeting (of Salaam): A Religious, Historical, and Sociolinguistic Perspective. Journal of Al-Qadisiya University Vol, 22(2), 37.

Labuza, P. (2021). When A Handshake Meant Something: Lawyers, Deal Making, and the Emergence of New Hollywood. Enterprise & Society, 22(4), 950-961.

Lindhardt, M. (2021). In Denmark, we eat pork and shake hands! Islam and the anti-Islamic emblems of cultural difference in Danish neo-nationalism. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 13675494211035389.

Xidirova, M. (2021). NON-VERBAL EXPRESSION OF RESPECT IN ENGLISH AND UZBEK. Мировая наука, (1), 30-33.

Рожкова, Е. Ю. (2019). Non-verbal communication in different cultures.