Beware While Using Hand Gestures In Other Countries!

Posted: January 31, 2015 in Articles

Hand gestures are pretty commonly used in all cultures, and they can be somewhat useful. For instance, making a circle with your index finger and thumb, holding the other three fingers up. Another one is rotating your index finger around your temple/ear area. One more mostly unknown gesture is making “horns” with your index finger and pinky, while your ring and middle fingers are folded down. The horns are used by people who wish to show their support for the University of Texas in Austin.

In my sister’s sociology book, there is a section about hand gestures and what they mean in various countries. None of the three examples above mean what they mean to Americans in other countries, and some of them are ones that you really do not want to use at all. While the horns in America show support for the University of Texas, in Italy you would be telling whoever you made the gesture to that their spouse was being unfaithful. Not good in any circumstances, but what if they weren’t married? They’d just think you were crazy.

Speaking of crazy, if you were talking to two of your (Argentinean) friends, and one was being weird, you might make the American “crazy” gesture, but to them, you’d be alerting them that you had a phone call. Finally, the “circle” gesture is probably the worst to make (if you’re in Tunisia). You’re new to the country, you finish a friendly conversation, you maybe even arrange to have coffee another day, and you make the circle gesture to tell your companion, “That’ll be fine!”

Oh dear. That was a big mistake. You’ve just suddenly, out of nowhere, with a pleasant smile on your face, gestured, “I’ll kill you.”

I think I’ll stay away from hand gestures if I’m ever away from America!

  1. Jeff says:

    If you flip the peace sign around backwards (first and middle finger) in England, it’s pretty much the same as flipping them off.

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