What Hand Gestures A Traveler Should Avoid: You Will Be Surprised!

hand signs meaning

Gesturing is an essential part of communication, but the peculiarity is that the same hand gestures in different countries can mean completely different things. Therefore, you can easily offend a person, even without knowing it. So today we will analyze the most popular meanings of hand gestures in different cultures, the meaning of which is best known in advance. Otherwise, problems in communication with foreigners cannot be avoided.

Here are the most popular hand gestures in the world and their meaning:

Gesture “ok”

The gesture of a ring of fingers, where the index and thumb touch, was presented to people by divers, who thus inform the partner that everything is fine with them. There is also an opinion that this is the idea of journalists who tried to shorten the most common phrases.

Almost all English-speaking countries and states of Europe will mean the same thing. At the same time, it can be an offensive gesture in other countries. For example, in countries such as Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East, it can be regarded as an allusion to homosexuality, while in France it means worthlessness, “complete zero.”

Thumb up

In most countries, this is a gesture of approval (this is where the “Like” icon came from on many social networks, by the way) or a sign that you are trying to catch a passing car on the track. But the meaning of this hand sign can be offensive in other countries. What does the thumb up mean in other countries? In Thailand, this gesture is a sign of condemnation and discontent, in Egypt and Iran it even means a serious insult, and in Greece, it is interpreted as a call to silence. 

Peace sign

This is one of the most common gestures in culture, meaning victory or peace. It is shown with the index and middle fingers of the hand pointing up in the form of the Latin letter “V”. But peace sign meaning in different cultures can be interpreted in different ways, especially depending on the position of the hand. In most countries, this sign is perceived positively. So what does the peace sign mean in other countries? It is simple: if you show the V sign with your palm turned away from you, peace is guaranteed to you, but if you turn your palm towards yourself in France, England, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa, you risk offending a person.

A beckoning gesture with the index finger

If in Australia, Europe, or the USA you beckon someone with your finger, they will understand you unambiguously, perceiving this gesture as a beckoning one. But in Asia, this is a sign of a strong insult. In the Philippines, you can even go to jail for him: there they call animals or an interlocutor who is not respected with a finger.

Head nod

In most European countries, nodding your head up and down means agreement, and shaking your head from side to side means disagreement. This is one of the prime examples of gestures that mean differently in a different country. There are countries where everything is quite the opposite! In Bulgaria, Greece, India, and some regions of Turkey, in our opinion, a nod in the affirmative will mean a firm “no”! And our habitual gesture of disagreement will be regarded as “yes”.

Open palm gesture

 gesture in different cultures

It resembles a stop sign. If you see him on the road it will be a reason to stop. In other situations, it can mean the number 5. In many nations, it is used as an assurance of the truthfulness of their words, during an oath. But, for example, in Greece, this gesture can seriously offend your interlocutor. The story begins in ancient times when a person who committed a crime was marked on his face – this was done with a palm. Since then, this sign is considered indecent among them.

7. “I have got your nose” gesture

 We have already learned that different hand gestures around the world can be understood in very different ways. The meaning of this hand sign In France, Turkey, Russia, is regarded as a rude, aggressive message to the interlocutor. In Brazil, in this way, they wish good luck and protect them from the evil eye. In Thailand and Japan, this gesture has an obscene meaning and means offering a full range of sexual services, so be careful. 


 Rock fans know this gesture all over the world, but few people know that this gesture in different cultures can mean something completely different. This gesture, shown to someone with his back in Spain or Italy, means that their spouses are not faithful, and the person is a complete failure. The “goat” in these countries has nothing in common with rock music.

Fingers crossed

You can cross your fingers for good luck anywhere in the world, but not in Vietnam. There such a gesture denotes female genitals and is considered as indecent as possible. So do not try to wish someone good luck there in this way, for us and them these are gestures that mean different things.

Transfer things with one hand

In China and Japan, you need to transfer and receive items with two hands, be it a business card, a gift, or any other thing. This is a sign of respect, openness, and care. If you pass something with one hand, it can become offensive. So, if you want to make a good impression, be sure to watch how you give or receive things. 


hand gestures in other countries

This gesture is used quite often in Hawaii, for example, when greeting each other or saying goodbye, as a token of gratitude, and even as an invitation to surf. This gesture is greeted not only by surfers but also by parachutists, jiu-jitsu fighters.

In Russia, “Shaka” has nothing to do with the greeting. This gesture shows a conversation on the phone, only in this case the little finger should be directed downward. Or an offer to drink, if accompanied by a characteristic shaking of the hand.We become so accustomed to the conventional meaning of gestures that, once abroad, we can find ourselves in a very awkward situation. Therefore, when you are traveling it is extremely important to know which hand gestures are offensive in other countries. The meaning of hand gestures, which is always clear to us, has not something in common with the way it is understood in other cultures. Habitual and seemingly easy-to-understand hand gestures in other countries can mean something completely different.

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