Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tips on How Not to Offend: Hand Gestures

So you and your friends are enjoying a relaxing evening at a local cafe on the Grecian coast. The food was absolutely magnificent, as was the spirits and good company of the locals. The beautiful Mediterranean evening could not possibly go south from here, everyone was respectful and no one seemed to mind the fact that you and your friends completely butchered the songs everyone was singing throughout the evening. You might just have this world travel thing licked! Not so hard right? You made some memories. You are really proud of yourself as you signal your server that you would like another round of Greek booze, preferably something that would put Zeus on his ass. She asks you if you would like to try some Ouzo, a national staple , and you distractedly give her the "ok" sign in the affirmative.

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! 



29 comments:

Hot New Music Today said...

Crazy, I wonder where some of these come from. Like the lick to the brow inferring homosexuality, there has to be a good story behind that one.

The Angry Lurker said...

Some of those are quite weird but useful information.

Jay said...

i'm afraid to type for fear of offending someone...

Kim Anders said...

dont think in belgium are weird handgestures.

well one thing: when we are at a bar, and we show our little finger, then you get a beer ^^ (in dutch little fingers = pink and beer = pint; almost is the same)

mac-and-me said...

great advice
be sure not to offend someone in your holidays :3

Lost.in.Idaho said...

Now I want some Ouzo... I love that stuff...

When in doubt, people, HANDS IN POCKETS! Or just confuse them by flailing your arms wildly, and saying "this means love and respect in my culture..."

Melanie said...

Awesome - now I know how to piss people off worldwide! In my neck of the woods, if you make a negative comment in regards to the Red Wings (hockey team) you catch total hell from all the red necks that take it personally. I was actually at a game at which they were playing the Montreal Canadiens, and I wore a Canadiens jersey, because one, I had one, and two, don't like the Red Wings. Some drunken idiot made some rude comment and spit at me. SPIT AT ME. What the hell? I have also learned from my cousin in the UK that "Red Wing" means something something rather disgusting. He got a real good laugh out of the fact that a national sport team was named this.

duffboi said...

Never considered hand gestures in this way before. Very good info if I am to travel to other countries, which I would like to do. Thanks for sharing.

Kicking Rocks said...

I do the peace sign in reverse,(im from England) here in Florida besides the pocket birdies.

Justin said...

Haha, thanks for the info. Did you wind up sorting it out and apologizing or whatever possible?

amBored said...

that mexico got me :D nice tips by the way

Daan said...

"Britain: The peace sign in reverse is the same as the middle finger in the US."
haha lol

Alphabeta said...

Interesting stuff - must remember the thumbs up and okay sign.
I do both quite a bit and I'm going to a wedding in Spain in a couple of months - many of the guests will be Muslim!

Alphabeta said...

...also in Bulgaria shaking and nodding one's head is the opposite to more Western society.

Sooo confusing!

Robert Fünf said...

This actually reminds me of an old Pinky And The Brain episode.

Patwa said...

mmm nice ^^

Venus said...

okkkk is good to know that... nice post.

Malkavian said...

Im from Mexico and well i didnt know that putting your hands on your hips was of an aggresive nature. the more you know.

Marlene said...

I think I almost tossed my cookies reading China's line.

Lhosreiff said...

Australia is notably silly.

Moob said...

hahaha. reading this makes me scared im going to do something else some where to offend someone during my travels

Autumnforest said...

I guess I'm not visiting other countries. I am very expressive with my hands when I talk. Great post!

Rockinrule said...

some of these just baffle me.

Shawn said...

Thats why when I am in public I just stick my hands down into the front of my pants .... to be polite of course.
Shawn

Zombie said...

remind me never to sign 'A-OK' in Grease. lol.

Sam said...

I live in Mexico and I put my hands on my hips all the time, usually when I'm standing up waiting for someone and I'm losing my patience, lol. Not sure if people see it as something hostile tho...

The Game Store Guy said...

I now have to test this in Australia. Never though to do that but the next time I go might prove amusing.

I will post an update if I'm beaten to death with a crocodile just to let you know.

notforeverybody said...

good to know!

Ray Rousell said...

Great post, some very strange gestures, rubbing the inside of your thighs?????