Linguists have known for a long time that some cultures use hand gestures more than others and it appears to be related to climate. However, nobody really knows why. In Europe, hand gestures and signals are used most in the Southern European countries, especially Italy. They diminish a little bit as you go north into France, a tad bit more in England. People in Russia and the Scandinavian countries use hand gestures the least.
During speech or debate class we are often told to look the person you are talking to in the eye. While this is appropriate in a White Anglo-Saxon culture, some cultures consider it rude or disrespectful. This has sometimes been a problem in the United States when a employee talks to a employer. Some cultures teach its people that you don’t look an elder or a superior in the eye when talking to them. It’s a sign of disrespect if you do.
On the other hand, White American culture tends to teach its people that it’s a sign of dishonesty if you don’t look the person you are talking to in the eye. A person who is honest and forthright always looks the other person in the eye when talking.
Consequently, you have a situation where the employer often mistakenly thinks that the employee is being shifty when he doesn’t look him in the eye while talking when this isn’t the case at all. It’s a difference in the significance that the two cultures place on eye-to-eye contact.
Then there is the custom of hugging as a greeting. People in Western European cultures, including the U.S., tend to find it offensive, even childish. To other cultures, especially the Russians, it’s a normal way of greeting another person, like a handshake. There is a famous (perhaps infamous) picture of Russian premier Nikita Khruschev hugging Cuban premier, Fidel Castro during a meeting at the U.N. in 1960. Castro was educated enough, however, to know that this was just their culture and to be patient with it. So, it is possible for people of different cultures to adjust to each other’s different, forms of non-verbal communication given the right conditions.
Another example is that for some people it will be normal to make a gesture either with one finger, or with a hand, palm up, and wiggling fingers toward them when they are trying to get someone to come to them.
In Latin America, the palm-up gesture is only used for calling animals, and would be considered rude for calling a person. It’s more appropriate to call a person with your palm down.