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June 16, 2015

Does the Indian Headshake Mean Yes, No, or Maybe? All of the above!

Have you ever wondered what the Indian head nod or nods mean? Even though I have lived in India for quite some time, and have been coming to India since 1998, I still don't quite understand all the nods. Sometimes, I would prefer to be given the answer 'yes' or 'no' as it's very confusing for me at times. 

The video embedded below is a humorous attempt to explain some of the nods and what they mean. 

One nod that is touched on but not described in detail is a nod where a person lifts their chin, smiles and winks both eyes at the same time and sometimes squeezes the face smaller. I often get this gesture in a training room, when I look around to see if people understand. I interpret this nod to mean, "I see you, I am telling you I understand, and "thank you." The other day, I received a look like this and thought, "I hope this same gesture will not be used in the US!" It could be misunderstood!  

The video below may give Americans who work with Indians an idea of how they may look or the expressions they may use while on the phone with you. I often try to mimic some expressions Americans may have while on the phone with Indians so the Indians get a live idea of what expressions or mannerisms Americans may have in different situations (as over the phone we really can't see each other)! While expressions are only part of the equation, keep in mind that Indians often say 'ok' and 'yes' to show they are listening, and not to agree. See this post for problems with 'ok' and 'yes'.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.