Talking with our hands is something we do all too often, but do all gestures mean the same across the globe?
Whilst travelling the world, it’s important to note that not every sign we make with our hands in the UK mean the same thing in other places.
So to avoid red faces (that can’t be attributed to sun burn) potential embarrassment and extreme offence, we’ve compiled a list of British gestures to avoid when travelling.
Here in the UK, telling everyone that everything is ok is usually done by placing the tip of the index finger onto the tip of the thumb; effectively making a circle. Whereas this may show satisfaction on the British Isles, many cultures find it quite offensive.
It is considered a rude gesture in many European countries, such as France, where the gesture means zero, which in turn means worthless in certain contexts – which isn’t good. Travel a little further and the gesture may relate to calling someone a particular body orifice, which won’t go down well.
Should I give a thumbs up?
Giving someone a thumbs up is so common place here, we do it without even thinking most of the time. But if you’re visiting the Middle East, you may want to rethink this gesture before you cause offence.
Although it may come as second nature here, in the Middle East alongside certain parts of Sardinia and West Africa, it’s basically the same as giving someone the finger.
Rock on guys
A clenched fist with the second and fifth finger raised may be well known to many as a gesture made at rock concerts – or in life in general following films like School of Rock. However not everyone around the world wants to ‘rock on’.
Come here … NOW!
We all know this finger movement from our childhood, right before we got placed on the naughty step. But where curling your index finger to beckon someone is used often throughout the UK, in the Philippines it’s thought of as a gesture so low it’s used only for dogs – so don’t call someone in this manner.
Patting someone on the head here may be seen as a source of praise, or a form of sarcasm, which we Brits tend to use mainly as a term of endearment. However in certain parts of Asia, particularly Thailand, it’s a big taboo and a definite no, no.
This is because, in the Buddhist faith the head is the highest point of the body and where the spirit exists – meaning touching anyone on the head is seen as highly invasive; passing things over a person’ head is also not welcomed.
The gesture of holding out your hand with a flat palm may be seen as a signifier to stop here in the UK, but it’s highly offensive in Greece.
The only thing more offensive than showing your palm to someone is showing both palms; so make sure your palms are facing you when gesturing.