Whenever you travel to a foreign land it’s wise to research the cultural differences between them and what you’re used to. There can be a significant difference. Everything from foods to rules like your voice can’t be raised past a certain volume. But one of the biggest is hand gestures. Yeah…That peace sign that you just flashed is to them the equivalent of giving the finger and give that to the wrong person in the wrong place and you can be in for the fight of your life, or worse. So, if you’re going to travel and you don’t want to die, keep intact because this post literally might save you from big trouble next time you travel. So, here we go. Ten Decent Gestures That Can Get You Killed Overseas.
Number one is thumbs up. In North America, flashing the good old thumbs up means good job or this movie is this good, but in the Middle East and parts of West Africa and South America, holding that digit in the air is quite offensive. And roughly translates to I’m going to stick my thumb up your ass. Elsewhere, in Italy and Greece, giving the thumbs up is seen as the equivalent of saying up yours. Wow, I just realized how awkward it must be for foreign hitchhikers. Hey, would you mind picking me up and driving me to the local town while you sit on my hand? K thanks.
Number two is the stop sign. If you’re talking to someone rambling, and you need them to slow down, or you need a car to halt, the gesture that you would use is the open palm facing the person you’re addressing in North America. In Greece throwing this hand sign at someone is known as the mountza, and it dates back the Byzantine Era where criminals had their faces blacked out with cinder or poop. This gesture essentially means I want your face to be covered in feces! Remember that next time you offer someone in Greece a high five.
Number three is the OK sign. When something is decent, especially in restaurants, and a thumbs up just won’t do, us North Americans and many other people on the planet, turn to the classic OK sign. Pressing the tips of your thumb and index finger together delivers your satisfaction perfectly. Unless you’re one of the many European countries that consider this gesture to mean zero and thus you’re calling that person you directed it to worthless. It’s also a symbol to let someone know that they’re homosexual. And trust me, even with today’s more tolerant beliefs, people don’t seem to like being told what they are.
Number four is fingers crossed. When you’re waiting on an outcome and hoping things will go your way, you’ll often cross your fingers, right? It’s a sign many lottery players and beauty pageant contestants use to bring them more luck. However, this can also be a sign of untruth, as crossing your fingers behind your back, somehow means the lie you’re currently telling is OK. Now all of that is of course unless you’re Vietnamese. In Vietnam, this symbol resembles lady parts and is taken to mean that you’re calling them them the horrible C word. No, not cute, but you’re close.
Number five is finishing your meal. In most cultures, when having dinner at another person’s home or restaurant, eating every last morsel of food on your plate would be considered polite. A sign that you truly enjoyed the meal you just consumed. However, in China, Thailand and the Philippines, clearing your plate is the equivalent of saying that was a pathetic amount of food. The best thing that you can do to be polite in these countries is to leave one last bite of meal on the plate signifying that you were just too full to eat it. Basically, just do the exact opposite of what your mother demanded you do with your green veggies. Oh but mom I don’t want to eat the rest, I’m just so full. Mmmmm so good.
Number six is the horns. When the band’s hot, they’re hot and obviously you want to tell them how much you appreciate their musical talent by raising your index and pinky fingers to give them the rock on horns. However, you may want to avoid doing this in Italy, Columbia, Portugal, Brazil and Spain as this sign says to a man your wife is being unfaithful and you’re blind to it due to your stupidity. Wow, that is a mouthful and the sign is usually given behind another man’s back. Aaah you’re stupid. No, what, no, I didn’t say anything.
Number seven is beckoning. Giving the old come here by curling your index finger is obviously pretty widely understood. You obviously want whoever you’re addressing to approach you. And it’s likely they’ll get the exact meaning unless they live in one of the many Asian countries such as the Philippines where to signal this is only used for dogs. To motion this to a person in such a way is derogatory and suggests you feel that they are inferior to you. Hey Jack, Jack (whistles) Who’s the best friend? Wanna go have some beers tonight Jack? Come on Jack. Oh god he’s gonna punch me.
Number eight is the peace sign. Used by Richard Nixon and many a hippie in the post-Vietnam war days, this innocent gesture conveys totally different meanings depending on which way your hand is facing. For instance, in North America, you want to face your palm outward to show peace, victory or the number two. But in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, flashing the V fingers with the back of your hand to an observer is equal to giving someone the finger or telling them to F off. And seeing as how my second biggest audience is in the UK, I’m just gonna take that down now. Hehe. Love you.
Number nine is giving an even number of flowers. Sometimes when we want to show someone that we care, we surprise them with flowers. And while this is still true in the country of Russia, you’d best do a quick count of your stems before delivering because an even number of flowers is only given to someone after they’ve lost a loved one. Outside of funerals, giving an even number of any type of flower, especially white ones, is to invite death to the recipient and I’m pretty sure that’s not what your’e going for to show you care. Unless, of course, you’re just totally messed up. Happy Valentines day may your funeral and your family’s grieving quick leave. (giggles)
Number ten is giving a gift with your left hand. Speaking of gift giving, this last gesture can get you an evil glare in dozens of countries. And happens after you do something nice. Giving any kind of present with your left hand is considered very rude. Almost as if you’re presenting it sarcastically and don’t really like the recipient. This is largely due to much of the world seeing the left hand as the one used to (clears throat) clean up after doing a number two. In case you didn’t pick up on that, that means it’s unclean cuz that’s your ass-wiping hand. Poopie! I’m done.
And now, you’re just a little bit smarter. My friends, if you enjoyed this, please give it a share and be sure to visit us daily. Peace.