Body Language in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and other parts of Europe can be a little different than body language in North America. Something as simple as the way a person crosses his or her legs is a small difference that is easy to notice.
The Slovak method of crossing legs, in my opinion, can make a person appear calm, confident, sophisticated, cultured. At the same time it makes a person look more slender, less well-fed, as muscular legs are hard to cross in the same way. Sometimes, it may even feel a little effeminate because of the gentle, slender appearance that it creates.
The book The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease points to the method of crossing legs as one distinction in body language that hearkens back to our days in the wild, as a way to give a person more of a sense of presence in a room.
The European Leg Cross
One leg is crossed neatly over the other, with 70 percent of people crossing left over right. This is the normal crossed-leg position used by European, Asian, and British cultures.
When a person crosses both legs and arms, they have emotionally withdrawn from the conversation and it can be futile to try to be convincing when they sit like this.
In business contexts, we have found that people sitting like this talk in shorter sentences, reject more proposals, and can recall less detail of what was discussed than those who sit with their arms and legs in an open position.
The American Figure Four
This position is a seated version of a Crotch Display as it highlights the genitals and is used by American males or any cultures that are becoming “Americanized,” such as the youth of Singapore, Japan, and the Philippines. It shows that an argumentative or competitive attitude exists. Monkeys and chimps also use genital displays when they are being aggressive, because a good display can avoid the damage that could be inflicted from a physical fight. With all primates, the male with the most impressive display is seen by the others as the winner. Places like Australia and New Zealand use both European leg crossing and the Figure Four. During the Second World War the Nazis kept a lookout for the Figure Four, as anyone using it was clearly not German or had spent time in the U.S.A.
The Figure Four is still uncommon in Britain and Europe among older people, but is now seen in diverse cultures such as Russia, Japan, Sardinia, and Malta among the younger generations who are addicted to American films and television and are mirroring what they see. Men who sit like this are not only perceived as being more dominant, they are also seen as relaxed and youthful. In parts of the Middle East and Asia, however, the Figure Four is seen as an insult because it shows the sole of the shoe and that’s the part that walks in dirt.
Women who wear trousers or jeans can sometime be seen sitting in the Figure Four position, but they usually do it only around other women, not men, as they don’t want to appear too masculine or to signal sexual availability.
Studies also show that most people make most of their final decisions to do something when both feet are on the ground, so the Figure Four is not conducive to asking someone to make a decision.
The above text is excerpted from The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara and Allan Pease (available through this link at Amazon.com). It’s a fantastic book that talks about how to better read body language.
Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.