Imagine you’re on a trip in Sicily ...
Your friend, a native Sicilian, invites you for a coffee in a bar. After a while you’re leaving together and your friend seems to be very amused. Why? What has happened during your short coffee break? He explains: „With gestures and glances everyone in the bar wondered who you are, asked where you came from, if we’re related, etc. Moreover, I caught the newest gossip about love affairs, disputes, etc. Whoever is familiar with the nuances of body language understands a situation as being sympathetic or suspect within the blink of an eye.
Why so many gestures in Sicily?
It’s difficult to say exactly when and how Sicilian body language has developed. One reason might be found in Siciliy’s dynamic history and its geographical position in the Mediterranean. During the past three thousand years the island’s culture has been influenced by as many as 15 peoples. Gestures from the Greek and Roman age may have survived as well as gestures of Semitic and Maghrebian origin.
Or is it merely a result of a strong delight in dramatics, rhetoric and communication?!
Is there a difference between eastern and western Sicilian body language?
During the Middle Ages, for example, Sicily’s western part has been influenced by the Arabic culture, whereas in the eastern part Byzantine traces have been left. This is why some gestures are typical for the western part and won’t be understood in the east and vice versa. A large repertoire of gestures is known all over Sicily, some of which are also common in Italy and other Mediterranean countries.
Are there new gestures?
As in a language some words disappear and new ones arise, the same applies to body language. Some of today’s gestures wouldn’t have been known by former generations or were used in a different way.
Recently new communication tools are influencing the Sicilian language as well as their gestures.
Attention – the significance of gestures might be ambiguous!
The meaning of many gestures is clear. But some gestures are closely related to the context and therefore ambiguous. The initiated know the skills and are able to distinguish the nuances (intertwined with situation and language). So watch out – a positive gesture could turn to a negative one and vice versa (less dangerous:o)
Gestures for women and / or men?
Body language is applied by women and men. However some gestures weren’t applied for indoor communication within the family circle but for use outdoors in the street, having been reserved for men for centuries (patriarchy) and more or less still exists. So in the repertoire of gestures there are very few typically feminine signs.
su-pa blog article Gestures in Sicily / La Gestualità dei Siciliani