Hand gestures: friend or foe?
Long before the appearance of spoken languages, language consisted mainly of onomatopoeia, facial expressions, body language and hand gestures. We all know the importance of non-verbal language and the amount of information it provides, which can have different meanings around the world.
Hand gestures developed and diversified along with the languages spoken in the world. Today, they are part of our daily life and our way of communicating. However, many of them are not international and are as diverse in the world as the languages spoken. So, these 5 hand gestures can make you smile or offend depending on the country you are in.
1. The V for victory
Recognized worldwide since the 1960s, the "V" sign is the classic sign of peace. Winston Churchill, during the Second World War, used it to symbolise victory. It is also a common way of designating the number 2. In Asian countries, the "V" sign is made when taking a picture instead of a smile.
In Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom or South Africa, when you turn your palm towards you and make the "V" sign, it will be badly perceived. In fact, it is an ancient way of communicating what the digitus impudicus means in modern times.
2. Thumb up
Thumbs up is a positive gesture recognised in many countries around the world, excluding our Greek friends and in Middle Eastern countries. In these countries, it does not mean "everything is good," or "I am ready" but rather a finger of honour.
3. Come here
In the Philippines, if you want to be arrested by the police, all you have to do is tell someone to "come here" by moving your finger back and forth. In this country, this movement is reserved for calling dogs and this gesture can be like comparing a person to an animal.
4. And what about the "ok" gesture?
The "okay" gesture - joining the thumb and forefinger together to form an "O" - is very common in English-speaking countries in the West. But, in Greece, Brazil and lots of Latin American countries, it is used to call someone a “dumbass”. Therefore, in order to avoid problems, we advise you not to use it in these countries ;-)
5. Pointing the finger at someone
In many cultures, pointing fingers is considered impolite. It is seen as an act of aggression, in which a dominant person isolates a subordinate, or to isolate a person within a group. In many cultures, a directional gesture with the palm of the hand open, or a nod is preferred instead.
A typical example is Disneyland, which is an international park, where employees are asked to point the way with two or more fingers, or even with the palm of their hand.
Here are some precautions to take for the next time you travel, for work or for business.
To conclude, making an effort to behave in a non-offensive way allows you to really immerse yourself in a different culture and make friends all over the world 😊