The Meaning Of Hand Gestures
Hand gestures have different meanings in different cultures and countries. Find out what's accepted and what's taboo.
Hand gestures have different meanings in different countries. That is because different cultures have attached different meanings to traditional hand gestures. What is acceptable in one country may be unacceptable in another. It is definitely a case of one man's meat is another man's poison.
A good hand signal in the States is the "O.K." gesture. The thumb and index finger are joined together to from an "O" to denote "O.K.". In Latin America and France, it is rude to show that sign as you are insulting somebody with it.
The thumbs-up sign means good or good going in the U.S. However, in the eastern countries like Bangladesh and other Islamic countries, this gesture is a rude sign.
Even the all famous "V" for victory sign with the index and middle finger is not spared from misunderstanding. In the U.S., it stands for victory or peace. Across the continent in England, the "V' is a rude challenge.
A common misread hand gesture is the finger beckoning. In the U.S., it okay to signal a waiter with the beckoning index finger. In the oriental east like Japan and Malaysia, it is a rude gesture. In Singapore, curling the index finger signifies death.
An upraised hand means "stop" in the States. In Singapore and Malaysia, it means "hail" to arrest the attention of somebody, a waiter or to ask for permission to speak.
A finger to the forehead means "brainy" in the U.S. In Singapore, it means "crazy." In Malaysia, the index finger twirling in circles at the forehead has the meaning of going crazy.
The raised middle finger is an obscene sign in Singapore and Malaysia. It is considered the ultimate insult to a person. It can lead to fights and trouble.
In certain countries in Africa, the index and pinkie fingers pointed downward denotes a curse to the enemy. How far this is true is yet to be documented.
Hands at the hip with arms akimbo is an arrogant gesture in the east. In the States, it denotes openness and acceptance to the talker. If this gesture is executed with hands inside the pockets, it is considered an outward show of sheer rudeness in Indonesia. Hooking thumbs at the belt may mean naughty implications in same countries.
With so many conflicting meanings for each hand gesture, it is not safe to assume that you can use hand gestures to overcome the language barrier when you travel overseas. Some travel guidebooks provide brief introductions of the cultures and social taboos of the respective countries. Do inquire first before using any hand gesture. Be safe, not sorry.