In chapter 4, there is a section on “Cultural Differences in Nonverbal Communication” (page 81). One section of this is dedicated to eye contact and gaze and how this may be interpreted differently in different cultures. I find this particularly interesting and have seen this at work during one of my study abroad experiences in Merida, Mexico. As the text states, some cultures, like the United States, value direct eye contact, viewing it as a sign of honesty and trustworthiness, while other cultures see it as a sign of disrespect. Consistent with a brochure published by the Vermont Department of Health, I found that in the Hispanic culture, direct eye contact is not valued in the same way that it is here (http://healthvermont.gov/family/toolkit/tools%5CF-6%20Cultural%20Differences%20in%20Nonverbal%20Communic.pdf). In fact, direct eye contact between a male and female can be seen as a sign of sexual interest. Trying not to make eye contact was very unnatural for me and I was constantly having to remind myself of this.
This raises an interesting question for me as I prepare for interviews, namely, can cultural background put certain applicants at a disadvantage in a one-on-one interview setting? I have been gathering advice on how to interview and one of the tips I always receive is “be sure to make eye contact.” I would guess that it is just as difficult for students from places like Nigeria and Thailand to remember to make eye contact as it was for me to remember not to.