Hello, and welcome to your new school. I'm writing this paper in order to give you some background on certain goings-on here that you may not be aware of. I realize that it will be difficult for you to weave your way into the social scene but I hope this paper will help you to better understand certain actions that you will experience or see taking place and may seem strange or offensive to you. Understand that this is a US high school and certain forms of non-verbal communication are used without realization on a daily basis. This paper should help explain a few major types of these actions to you.
One of the most common, and probably most seemingly offensive forms of non-verbal communication is eye movement during conversation. There are certain rules for eye placement during conversation that will most likely seem rude to you. These movements, you must understand, are subconscious actions to us however. For example, when two members of the opposite sex, and most times even two members of the same sex, are speaking to each other be prepared for a lack of eye contact. Direct eye contact between a male and female during conversation makes for a very awkward situation as it makes both people begin to feel very self-conscious. If you happen to notice someone not look at you while you speak do not feel like you are being ignored or the person is trying to cut off the conversation, the truth is, they probably don't even realize they are doing it. Also, as a side note, the direct eye contact norm also takes effect in high school hallways in a slightly different manner. When you are passing by people in the hallways whom you don't know all that well, feel free to look at them but once they enter basic recognition distance, about 20 feet away from you, switch your gaze onward beyond them. It may send an incorrect message of hostility in high school if the person sees you staring at them after that point.
When it comes time for you to talk to a teacher or basically any person whom you respect be ready for the rules of basic conversation to change. When talking to a respected person direct eye contact is expected. Direct eye contact with this person shows that you have an interest in what they are saying and that you respect and value the information that the person is sharing with you. Additional head nods thrown in on occasion shows that the speaker still has your attention and that you are finding the information is pertinent to your question. The head nod also shows your agreement or understanding of where the speaker is coming from. Even if you do disagree or don't understand the response given to your question or the advice you are receiving it is still usually common practice to go along with whatever the respected figure is stating. Later on, after the idea or thought is finished, questions can be asked without making the person feel that a conversational "rule" has been broken.
Another major confrontational rule to keep in mind when engaging in conversation is the "comfort bubble" that most Americans have. The comfort bubble is an invisible bubble around most all Americans that usually extends twelve inches from the person's body. Keep in mind that when you intrude into a classmate's personal space they will often try to correct the situation by stepping back or, if the space of the area does not permit stepping back, the individual may tense up their muscles or bend their body backwards. If this does not work the person may give you a look of confusion or frustration (usually pushing the eyebrows down towards the nose and tilting the head back) which means they feel uncomfortable in the space you have left them. If all else fails they will try and separate themselves with a sort of divider; stepping behind a desk, repositioning their backpack or the books they are holding, these actions will all make them feel a bit more secure. The main reason people do not want to stand particularly close to each other is because they are self conscious of letting the other person feel