Her smile melts into a frown and she turns around quickly and stomps off muttering what could only be construed as Greek profanity. She goes up to the owner and begins shouting at him while gesturing at your table. Uh oh. Were you supposed to refuse the national drink of Greece? Was there a customary response that you missed? All you did was give the "ok" sign, and now several descendants of King Leonidas and Hercules are walking up to your table with menace in their eyes. Well unbeknownst to you, the "ok" sign in several Mediterranean cultures is considered to be something quite filthy. Like sodomy level filthy, aimed at your mom. Whoops. Sucks you can't bend time and read this post before you leave home, but feeble attempts at nonlinear narrative aside, you can now!
Although today's video goes into deeper detail, here are some quick reference tips separated by region that can go a long way in avoiding any embarrassing or potentially dangerous confrontations.
Argentina: Slapping the inside of your own thigh is considered a crude "come hither" gesture.
Mexico: Putting your hands on your hips can be seen as a sign of hostility. Yeah. Now think of every Salma Hayek movie you've ever seen. U mad, gringo?
Chile: Palm up with your fingers spread out is the same as calling someone a dumbass.
Japan: Signaling someone with a single finger is considered a harbinger of death.
China: The older generation still picks it's nose and eats it in public. Basically just look away and don't yell "Eww"
Egypt: Tapping your two index fingers together at someone is the same as saying "I wanna hit that.."
Most Arab Countries: The "thumbs up" gesture is the same as the middle finger.
Britain: The peace sign in reverse is the same as the middle finger in the US.
Lebanon: Licking your finger and running it across your eyebrow at someone, is calling them gay.
Spain and Greece: The "ok" sign in US vernacular means something horrifically vulgar (see above).
Australia: Supposedly putting your empty glass upside down on a bar means you think you can take out anybody in the bar in hand to hand combat. I'd love to hear from some of my Aussie readers on this one for confirmation. If true, don't freaking do it...those dudes can fight...
So there is a brief rundown, and as time progresses, we will explore more as well as other tips to keep you from visiting Humiliation Land or even Charon the ferryman of the underworld (pro tip: don't die in Greece). Below is a video taken from a BBC documentary that goes into really good detail about different hand gestures and what they mean to different cultures. Very interesting stuff!
What about YOUR culture? Are there any gestures that you can think of that have dual meanings across cultures? If so, put it down in the comments section and I will repost them next week on the same day! I've decided to dedicate Wednesday's feature to preventing overseas embarrassment from here on out, and with your help, it will probably be pretty damn funny as well!