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Our current world is becoming what we call a "global village". As we become increasingly interconnected, it becomes more important to learn how to communicate with people from different parts of the world. When visiting foreign countries or interacting with people from other cultures, communicating effectively becomes necessary. Unfortunately, the focus is often put on learning verbal communication in a foreign language. As a result, most people completely skip a vital aspect of the interaction- gestures. 

Gestures in different cultures tend to vary significantly and one gesture can be interpreted a hundred different ways depending on where you go. Being unaware of the meaning of certain gestures around the world can sometimes lead to serious misunderstandings. 

Here are 15 popular hand gestures around the world you should know. 


Thumbs Up

Generally a positive sign, the thumbs gesture signifies approval, agreement, or satisfaction, especially within American and European cultures. 


This prevalent hand gesture that has been used for thousands of years has a completely different meaning in many Asian and Islamic countries. There, it is seen as a major insult and can offend. In Australia, it has a positive view until you change a little detail. When you move this gesture up and down, it changes its meaning to an insult.


The Chin Flick


You make the chin flick gesture by brushing the back of your palm underneath your chin in a fast motion. Common amongst kids but it's not restricted to the younger ones alone! 

It looks a bit like an insult but it is not always is, it simply means “I don’t care”. In Belgium, Northern Italy, and Tunisia, this gesture means "get lost". Used as a hand sign to communicate macho grandstanding, it is referred to as "la barbe" or "the beard" in France. 


The “V” or Peace sign


The peace or "V" sign, which is made by putting up the index and middle fingers, is a fairly universal gesture. It was a common gesture that was used to signify victory before the 1960s. Its meaning began to change to peace during the Vietnam war and the Hippy era. Despite its age, the gesture still signifies peace and every other collective human sentiment of unity and harmony.

In some countries, simply changing the direction in which the palm faces can change the meaning. For instance, many countries outside of the US such as Australia, the UK and South Africa, see flashing the V sign with an inward-facing palm is interpreted as a major insult. 


The Fig. 

The fig gesture is made when you clench your fist with your thumb placed between the index and middle finger; it has a vulgar sexual connotation, something along the lines of “screw you”.

In countries like Indonesia, Turkey and Russia, it has a rude interpretation. This gesture is also used to symbolize lady parts in some countries. 


The OK Gesture


To make this gesture, simply extend your other fingers above the thumb and curl your index finger over it. In most English-speaking countries like America, this OK gesture signifies that everything is…well… okay. That is, all is well and going as planned. 

This positive gesture becomes a very rude one in Latin America and France, while in New Zealand, the sign is used for a lazy person. In Australia, however, the "OK" sign is simply taken to mean "zero".


Forearm Jerk Gesture 


The forearm jerk gesture is created by punching one fist into your elbow joint while raising the other fist in front of you. Most countries in southern Europe or Brazil use this as an insult, and it's commonly used by soccer fans to send an offensive message to the opposing team's fans.


The Come Here Gesture


In the US, when you want someone to come towards you, you use the summoning gesture of curling the index finger toward the palm. This gesture can also be used by a woman as a way of seducing or tempting a man.

However, don't attempt to use this gesture in the Philippines. There, it is considered to be one of the most offensive gestures one can make and can result in you being punished with broken fingers or arrested. Talk about a way to ruin your vacation. 

Several other countries refer to this gesture as "the dog call" because it is considered inappropriate for summoning humans. In Japan, this gesture oozes a rude vibe, while it means “death” in Singapore.


Head Shake Gesture

In many English-speaking countries, all you have to do to say "yes" is to nod your head and a head shake is used to say "no". Despite the fact that this may seem to be a universally accepted practice, these actions are reversed in countries like Bulgaria and Greece. For most people who aren't aware of this, the difference can be confusing.

The Corona Hand Gesture


When making the Corona Hand gesture, point the index and little fingers upwards and curl the two middle fingers toward the palm. For decades, fans and members of hard rock bands have used it to express approval or enjoyment. The gesture is also considered positive in both Hinduism and Buddhism. 

On the other hand, many European countries view it as a sign of the devil. 

Countries such as Italy, Brazil, Cuba, Spain and Portugal also use this gesture as an indicator that their spouses are cheating.


The Moutza Gesture


With your palm out and fingers spread, you make the Moutza gesture, which is age-old. Ancient Byzantium started this practice by locals rubbing feces on imprisoned criminals as they were paraded. 

The Middle East, Africa, Greece, Mexico, and the Middle East view this as a serious sign of discontent.


Five Fathers Gesture 


In Arab and Caribbean countries, pointing your right index finger and finger grouped on your left hand can lead to a fight. This insulting gesture is a way of telling someone, “you have five fathers.” In harsher terms, this is used to say “your mother is promiscuous." Definitely can't be surprised when that earns you a punch in the face.


Crossing Fingers


In the U.S. and many English-speaking countries, the gesture of crossing one's fingers implies wishing for Goodluck or hoping for the best. However, the expression "keep your fingers crossed" would mean something entirely different in Vietnam. There, crossing your fingers depicts a woman’s genitalia and is considered an insulting gesture to call someone the c-word. 


Horns Gesture 


This horn sign signifies a bull’s horns and has been a gesture for more than 2,500 years.

When the fingers' placement shows horns, it's a way of telling people to “rock on” symbolizing encouragement. In places like Spain, Italy and Greece, the gesture is referred to as a "corna". It's a suggestive gesture that implies a wife is cheating on her husband. It's certainly not a good way to get someone's respect. 


Crossed Arms


It isn't uncommon for people to casually cross their arms in front of them in countries like the United States. This posture is often interpreted to be casual or, at worst, closed off. In Finland, however, this posture is viewed as a huge sign of arrogance. Standing with this posture can get you into a fight or make people dislike you, so it's best to watch out. 

Hand gestures are powerful because they say so much without us ever having to utter a word. When communicating with individuals in other cultures, making an effort to understand gestures around the world pays dividends and can make all the difference. 


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