Common Hand Gestures To Avoid Abroad

Some handy tips for traveling overseas.
August 23, 2017
Common Hand Gestures To Avoid Abroad

Whether you’re studying abroad or on vacation, the last thing you want to do is unintentionally offend someone by saying something rude. But what if it’s your hands that are doing the talking? The meaning of our hand gestures may seem intuitive to us, but as it turns out, they don’t always translate well across cultures. Keep reading to learn some common hand gestures to avoid making abroad.

Okay Sign

What you meant to say: “Sounds good” or “I approve”

What you’re actually saying: In Germany, you just called someone an a**hole. Now who’s the…

Backward Peace Sign

What you meant by it: If you’re flashing the backward peace sign, we’re going to assume you’re posing for a picture or taking a selfie.

If someone sees you: You just gave them the equivalent of the middle finger if you’re in the U.K., Australia, Ireland or New Zealand. Whoops!

Index Finger On Temple

What you meant to say: “I’m thinking”

What you’re actually saying: That you think the person you’re talking to is crazy, which in Germany is called “showing someone the bird.” This is likely because birds were thought to have low intelligence, similar to the U.S. expression “bird brain.”

Fist To Forehead

What you meant to say: This is another commonly used one to express “I’m thinking” in the U.S.

What you’re actually saying: In Brazil, you’d be calling yourself an idiot. This hand gesture is used to illustrate that you just did something stupid, like trying to eat ice cream with your forehead.

You know what else comes in "handy"?
Learning A New Language
Author Headshot
Y Yates
Y is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who is insatiably interested in art, culture, and the intersection of technology and storytelling. She believes you can never have too many houseplants.
Y is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who is insatiably interested in art, culture, and the intersection of technology and storytelling. She believes you can never have too many houseplants.

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