The reason I say this is that, I just realized, a full day after the party, that the body language that is considered rude in Japan happens to coincide pretty unfairly with American Sign Language. Totally shouganai (oh well), and I think I've made a bad impression. Not everyone knows this, so take a look at this page about body language in Japanese, though I wouldn't say it's the end-all be-all reference: http://www.tofugu.com/guides/japanese-body-language/
It's worthwhile to think for a minute about which came first in this chicken-egg scenario:
- chicken: Americans
- egg: hands in pocket
If the chicken came first, it means that Americans are wrongly associated with laziness and arrogance in Japanese body language. If the egg came first, it means that Japan decided that laziness and arrogance are signaled by hands in pockets, long before they met Americans. What do you think?
I am annoyed and frustrated that I have had no context for the offense I have clearly made. Frustrated! Fortunately, there are many world travelers in the house who understand that body language is my first language, even before words. So I can't help it if I associate the thumbs-up with anything good — how was I supposed to know it means "man" in Japanese?
And to think of all the mistakes I've made in kids classes with parents watching. Not good for anyone... I think this may need to be remedied in company training. It's important not to overlook these kind of sensitive issues.