From one culture to another, hand gestures adopt a unique meaning and symbolism. Many times, we tend to use our hands to explain our needs and thoughts. The same gesture can mean something quite nasty and disrespectful to a person from a different cultural background. Hand gestures are a very important part of the body language gestures. While visiting a new city or country, it is important to learn what certain gestures mean so that you don’t offend anyone.
What are Hand Gestures?
These are a way of communicating with others and conveying your feelings. These gestures are most helpful when one is speaking to someone with no language in common. The meanings of hand gestures in different cultures may translate into different things
To explain my point, I take a very common example of former President George W. Bush who had to face a major faux pas during a visit to Australia. He tried to signal a peace sign by waving the two finger or V-sign at the crowd.You may think of this as a simple gesture, but he committed a major error. Instead of his palm facing outwards, it faced inwards. The meaning in Australia meant he was asking the crowd to go screw themselves! Therefore, it is very important to understand the meanings of gestures before you travel to different countries.
Before you communicate with people in different cultures, you need to understand the meaning of gestures. Those considered as a good gestures in one country may be termed as an offensive gesture in some countries. So, if you are a frequent flier to different countries, improve your communication skills by learning the meaning of certain gestures.
Interpretations to Know
The following information will cover some of the common gestures with their meanings. You will be surprised to know that some gestures that you perform almost casually has a really different meaning in different cultures.
The thumbs up sign in most American and European cultures meaning things are going according to your plans or something you approve of. However, the going good sign translates into a rude and offensive gesture in Islamic and Asian countries. In Australia, it means OK, but if you move it up and down, it is considered as a grave insult.
The thumbs down sign obviously means the opposite of a thumbs up sign. It is an indication of something that is bad or something that you do not approve of. It also indicates that something or someone has failed. The thumbs down sign is not used as often as the thumbs up sign. This is a rude and an arrogant way to indicate failure.
Crossing of fingers is considered as a sign of wishing for good luck or fortune. It also may interpret that someone is hoping for something good to happen. The cross may have originated from the Pagan symbols that means to ward off evil. Many times people cross their fingers before telling a lie, as it is believed to countervail the evil that comes of the lie. It is a positive and negative symbol as it interprets both luck or lies.
When one raises the hand up with the palm facing towards the opposite person, it means ‘to stop’ in America and British countries. It means that an authoritative figure is asking one to ‘Stop’. If the fingers are pushing down, it indicates that the person to sit down or settle. It’s not a defensive gesture and is a gesture to take control over the person it is intended for. In Singapore or Malaysia, it means that one is trying to ‘hail’ someone’s attention like a waiter or asking permission.
This gesture is commonly used by mothers and teachers. It is used to warn a single individual. It is a way to silent an individual and ask them to pay attention. This is considered as a rude gesture in a professional environment and termed as a domineering behavior.
While talking to a friend, you may open your palm and stretch out your fingers. But, if you were in Greece, the same gesture would be considered as a traditional manual insult. It means that you are thrusting your hand in the face of the opposite person and using a brash ‘nah’. This suggests that you are asking the person to ‘eat shit’ and leave you alone. The moutza in American terms is similar to the gesture that means ‘talk to the hand’.
The Dog Call
The dog call is a gesture where you curl your finger and summon someone towards you. It’s mostly seen to be carried out by a tempting woman to her man. However, it should be avoided in Philippines as this is one of the worst forms of hand gesture which is used only for dogs. It could get you arrested or maybe even punishable by breaking your finger, so that you never attempt to do this gesture again. In countries like Japan, it’s considered a rude gesture In Singapore, it’s indication of death.
The okay sign is used by curling the index finger over the thumb and the remaining fingers extended above them. This means that everything is good or well. Also, it is usually used by divers to indicate all is well or OK. But, in Latin America and France it’s considered as an insulting sign, it’s thought to mean ‘your anus’, and has negative connotations attached to it. In Australia, it means zero and in Germany it means a job well done. In New Zealand, it’s taken as a cheap way of saying OK.
Snapping fingers over and over may mean one is trying to remember something someone has forgotten. In Latin America, snapping fingers means asking one to hurry up. In Great Britain and America, one snaps fingers when one remembers something or gets an idea. However, in many cultures, snapping fingers close to someone’s face is considered to be an offensive gesture.
Running Out of Time
Many times when one is getting late or wants to indicate running out of time, they tend to watch their wrist. This is despite the fact that they may or may not be wearing a watch on the wrist. This is a subconscious gesture to indicate an end of conversation or a subtle way that one should take leave. However, in the Middle East, it’s believed that once a conversation starts, it should be allowed to take its time to complete. Gesturing to end the conversation is considered a rude insult.
In America and European cultures, it is considered rude to point fingers at others. This hand gesture is an indication of a dominant – to – subordinate behavior in the professional world. It is considered a gesture to single out an individual from a crowd. This aggressive signal is not liked by many, as no one likes to be singled out.
The corona is carried out by pointing the index and pinkie finger upwards and the two middle fingers and thumb curled towards the palm. This is considered as the symbol of the devil in many cultures. The two pointing fingers indicate the horns of the Devil. It’s also widely used by rock stars in as a positive gesture. This is also one of the good gestures in cultures like Buddhism and Hinduism. In the Mediterranean, it an old symbol that means ‘cuckold’, that is, your wife is cheating on you.
The fig is a gesture that is indicated by a fist. The thumb is seen poking out of the index and middle fingers. It is known as mano fico or fig hand in Roman. It is one of the good hand gestures, as it indicates good luck and fertility and a way to ward off the evil eye. However, the fig is considered a gesture that mimics the female vulva in Italian. Thus, this is a very offensive gesture to the Italians and Turks. If it is carried out by a person of Asian origin, it roughly means ‘screw you’.
One of the most offensive and rude gestures around the world is the finger. The middle finger-pointing upwards is considered as an obscene gesture. In some Mediterranean and Arab countries, holding the index finger instead of the middle finger, implies the same obscene gesture.
This was some information related to the meanings of gestures in different cultures. You should avoid using certain gestures in countries whose cultures are new to you. You do not want to offend anyone or anything in a new land that may put you in a soup. While you research some information related to travel tips, be sure you also learn something about the body language gestures too. You do not want to inadvertently insult your guests or hosts or trigger an unwarranted violence in a new land.