The Ultimate Guide To Different Gestures Around The World


Nonverbal communication can be divided into several categories, such as facial expressions, head movements, hand and arm gestures, physical space, touching, eye contact, and physical postures. However, the hand gestures and body language on which people rely on more heavily when they are unable to verbally interact do not always mean the same thing in every country. Gestures used on a daily basis in the U.S. to portray positive emotion or agreement, for example, might mean something highly offensive in a foreign land.

Here is a comprehensive list of common gestures and their various meanings in different countries. Read it carefully, cause some of them might save you from getting into hot water in foreign countries.

1. 👌

A-ok or Okay, made by connecting the thumb and forefinger in a circle and holding the other fingers straight, indicates satisfaction in many countries including US, UK, Canada and Australia.

2. However, the same gesture signals the word "money" in Japan.

3. And "zero" in France.

4. In Mexico it stands for "sex".

5. In Ethiopia, Venezuela and Turkey, gesturing to someone in this way implies that they are homosexual.

6. 👍

In US and many other western cultures, giving thumbs-up is a sign of approval. Especially in France, it means "excellent."

7. In Japan, the right thumb held straight up in a similar manner means "boyfriend."

8. In Latin America, Iraq and Afghanistan, it's considered obscene, more like an "up yours."

9. 'The fingers all together' means beautiful or well in Turkey, whereas it means "What do you want?" or "WTF?" in Italy.

10. The same gesture means also "good" in Spain or "slow down" in Tunisia. In Egypt, it says you'll only be a minute.

11. 🙄 Eye Contact

In American culture, direct eye contact is valued; a person who won't "look you in the eye" is perceived as being evasive or even lying

12. However, many other cultures do not practice the whole "eye contact" deal.

In many parts of the world, direct eye contact may seem even rude or disrespectful, especially with superiors

13. For example, in Nigeria, Puerto Rico, and Thailand, children are taught not to make direct eye contact with their teachers and other adults.

14. Cherokee, Navajo, and Hopi Native Americans use minimal eye contact as well.

15. Japanese use far less direct eye contact than Americans do. In contrast, eye contact with Arabs is a sign of respect and a lack of eye contact indicates that other people are unimportant.

16. 🎎 Personal space and physical contact

Societies and cultures can be divided into two category based on the size of personal space bubbles they are accustomed to having: Distant cultures, which tend to keep more personal space and use less touching; and 'warmer' cultures, where touch and close proximity are more welcome and socially accepted.

17. The Middle East, Latin America and Southern Europe prefer a lot more physical contact during normal conversations.

In North America and Northern Europe, touching strangers is not appropriate at all.

18. 👬 In Arab countries, some parts of Asia, and traditionally in some Mediterranean and Southern European cultures (especially in Sicily), holding hands amongst men is considered a common demonstration of friendship and/or a sign of respect.

19. On the other hand, physical contact (especially between men) can cause discomfort in societies unused to it, such as the US.

20. The Queen of England is untouchable—in many situations, literally. So when First Lady Michelle Obama broke the rule by throwing an arm around Her Majesty, the British media was understandably shocked. It was a breach of one of the classic rules of conduct.

21. The Downwards palm wave means "go away" in Australia, UK, US and Canada, and is used to shoo somebody off.

However, in the Philippines, India and Vietnam, having an upwards palm is considered rude and used to say "come here"

22. ✌ Although this is the international sign for peace or victory, it means something radically different in Australia and UK, when given with the palm facing inward. Used that way, it’s actually equivalent to the upraised middle finger in the US.

On a visit to Canberra in 1992, George H.W. Bush unwittingly insulted a group of locals by giving them the V-sign while riding past in his armored car and made one of the most famous diplomatic gaffes in history.

23. Nod vs. Head shake

A nod of the head is a gesture in which the head is tilted in alternating up and down arcs along the sagittal plane. In many cultures, it is most commonly, but not universally, used to indicate agreement, acceptance, or acknowledgment.

On the other hand, a head shake, in which the head is turned left and right along the transverse plane repeatedly means disagreement, denial, or rejection in many cultures.

24. There are a few exceptions, with some countries swapping the meanings between nodding and shaking head.

In some Southeastern Europe areas, such as Bulgaria and southern Albania, a head shake in which the head is turned left and right indicates affirmation, whilst nodding in fact means "no," the complete reverse of most other places in the world.


25. In Korea, a head shake means "I don't know"

26. Although nodding to indicate "yes" is widespread in most cultures, a single nod of the head up (not down) indicates a "no" in Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and Sicily.

27. 🤘🏼 The placement of your fingers to show devil horns is usually known as the symbol for “rock on”

However, it has a slightly different meaning in Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Greece, Italy — where it is called the “corna” and is considered a suggestive gesture made to a man to imply that his wife is cheating on him. It dates back more than 2,500 years and signifies a bull’s horns.

28. Curling your index finger to say “come here” is a no-no in many Asian countries.

You can get in serious trouble for finger-summoning in the Philippines — that’s reserved for calling dogs and is considered very rude. And in Singapore and Japan, that motion signifies death, so unless you are the icy hand of death yourself, don’t employ it.

29. The fig sign that uses two fingers and a thumb is a mildly obscene gesture used in Turkish, Slavic and some other cultures. It's most commonly used to deny a request.

In Italy this sign, known as mano in fica ("fig-hand"), or far le fiche (cunt gesture), for the resemblance to female genitalia, was a common and very rude gesture in past centuries, similar to the finger, but has long since fallen out of use.

30. In ancient Greece, this gesture was a fertility and good luck charm designed to ward off evil.

31. This usage has survived in Portugal and Brazil, where carved images of hands in this gesture are used in good luck talismans.

32. This facial gesture which consists of pulling down one's lower eyelid means "in your dreams" in Turkey, as if to say: "Look at my eyes, do I look that stupid to accept such proposal?"

However in Italy, it indicates agreement. Same gesture is called 'Akanbe' in Japan, and used to indicate childish mockery.

33. Crossed fingers are used to superstitiously wish for good luck or to nullify a promise in many western cultures.

In Vietnam, however, this is an obscene gesture, especially when done while looking at or addressing another person. The crossed fingers are said to resemble female genitals.

34. Turks rub their stomach to say they are hungry, whereas Italians tap their belly with the hand with the palm facing down and fingers extended.

In Japan, to say you're hungry, you need to extend your index and middle fingers out like chop sticks on one hand while your other hand is shaped like a bowl.

35. 🖕 This gesture, however, has the same exclusive meaning almost everywhere.

So just to let you know, no one will buy your "why're you beating me, I used it as a sign of respect, like Chauilla Indians used to do!" bullcrap.

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