Hand and facial gestures can be a minefield when travelling outside your own culture. If wrongly used, or falsely interpreted, they can get you into a lot of trouble – or at the very least, lead to your intentions being misunderstood. Here is a list of what certain gestures mean in different countries around the globe.
1) “V” sign
In central Europe, many people see a “V” sign with the index and middle finger as a sign for “victory,” or alternatively as a peace sign. But in Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, this finger configuration, if shown with the back and not the front of the hand, is used as an angry insult.
In most European countries, an upstretched thumb means something positive, like “good work” or “everything’s OK.” But in Russia, Greece and Australia, it is an obscene, rude gesture.
3) Nodding your head
In many places, a head nod indicates a “yes” agreement or understanding of something. But watch out – a single up-and-down movement of the head in parts of south-eastern Europe means “no.”
In India, a nod is a gesture bidding someone to come to you. Conversely, on the Indian subcontinent, a side-to-side shake of the head indicates agreement, understanding and respect. In western countries, meanwhile, a head-shake indicates disagreement or disapproval.
4) Waving your hand
In the US and most European countries, a hand-wave can be used to both greet and say farewell to someone. But do this to someone directly in front of you in south-east Asia or Turkey, and you will have insulted the person.
In parts of Asia and Oceania, waving at a person can also come across as impudent, because in such places only dogs are beckoned in this way. And in Japan, tourists might be confused when someone is flexing their hand up and down from the wrist. This gesture is not meant to get rid of the person, but the opposite – to summon them.
5) Finger-to-the-forehead sign
In Germany, this is a negative gesture, signalling that the other person is perhaps not all there in the head. In the US, meanwhile, motorists use the sign to warn other motorists that the police are nearby.— dpa