What to know

Common Gestures & What They Mean In Different Cultures

Cultures differ in their traditions and customs. The first thing you should know early on about a foreign country you are traveling to or doing business is its people’s body language and gestures to avoid any major faux-pas, because some gestures that are clear to you might be offending or inappropriate for others.

The thumbs up

This sign usually is a sign of approval or means a job well done in many cultures. However, it is used as an insult in Bangladesh and could be an offending gesture in Australia, Greece and parts of the Middle East. It could also represent a number, such as 1 in Germany and Hungary and 5 in Japan, so make sure you don’t use it while negotiating your business deals.

Pointing the index

Doing this can be offending in many cultures and in countries like China, Indonesia, Latin America, it is considered very rude. In many African countries, it is solely used to point at objects, never people.

Curling the index

In the United States, curling the index finger with the palm facing up simply means ‘come closer’ and it is a common gesture there. That is not the case in Slovakia, China, and many parts of the world, where it is extremely rude to use this sign. In many Asian countries, it is used to beckon dogs while doing it in the Philippines could get you arrested!

The Ok sign

In many countries, holding together your thumb and index to form a circle means everything is perfect and going great. However, it doesn’t mean the same thing in many other countries. Avoid this gesture at all cost in Brazil, Russia and Germany where it is considered offensive, while it means ‘money’ in Japan and ‘zero’ in France.

The Horn fingers

You might have noticed this one being used by rock stars during concerts as a sign of approval, and to ‘rock on’. But in some African countries, it is considered a curse, and in many Latin countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Spain, Italy and Portugal, making this sign at someone means you are telling them that their spouse is cheating on them.





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