25 Hand Gestures from Around the World, A Photo Guide
A special "THANK YOU" to Jennifer M., our Hand Gestures model, who had entirely too much fun posing for these pictures.
Hand Gestures Have Always Been Popular
The use of hand gestures has been around since the beginning of time. Evolutionary specialist tell us that gestures are much older than speech. When our ancestors needed to share information, or stop Grog the caveman from sharing another rendition of his escape from a wild beast last spring--again-- it is a sure thing that a few "Hand Gestures" were put to good use.
Once the management of recording history began, those Hand Gestures of early times also got recorded. Our ancestors, used many of the same gestures we use today, and with grand gusto you can bet.
Evolving Hand Gestures
As the next several-thousand years past, the language of Hand Gestures continued evolving. Every region found on earth developed its own cleverly-colorful vocabulary of Hand Signs. Hand gestures literally point directly at where we have been, and where we are headed; finding absolute relevance in our modern society! With air travel around the world, we take our "approved by" Hand Gestures with us as we cross international datelines and into new countries that may have alternate meanings for the same Gestures. So take a minute and view just a few Hand Gestures From Around the World, and save yourself from making a mistake in a country that may just remove the hand that offers a far-more-rude than intended hand Gesture!
Are You an Idiot?
Meaning: Are You an Idiot?
Used in: Brazil
To get this gesture right, you will want to include your acting chops, as this gesture is a performance! Place your fist on your forehead while making a face and staggering slightly to indicate you are too dumb to walk. When done correctly you may just get a few snickers, but most likely NOT from your subject.
Used In: Brazil
To complete this hand gesture, place a flat, extended hand under your chin. You should only perform this gesture behind the back of a subject, because this signal is meant to inform every one else in the room that the stuff being said is meaningless chatter and should be disregarded as bullshit.
Used In: France
This gesture fakes deafness. Not to encourage the teller to repeat the words more loudly, but rather to stop talking altogether. This gesture would seem to be the quintessential embodiment of the saying, "silence is golden."
Piss Off (1)
Forward Flick of the Chin
Meaning: Piss Off
Used In: Belgium, France, Northern Italy, and Tunisia
In France, this gesture means la barbe, or "the beard." The principle here is that the sign imitates the comparing of masculinity like a buck would flaunt his horns or a Rooster his comb. To complete this gesture, brush the top of your hand under the chin in a forward flicking motion that doesn't end until all four fingers 'pop' out from under the chin. While not as directly aggressive as comparing the size of manhood, this gesture IS legal and remains an insulting way to get rid of one's competitors.
Piss Off (2)
Meaning: Piss Off (2)
Used In: France, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, and Yugoslavia
With this gesture of get lost, the left hand chops or clamps down on the right wrist, forcing the right hand to quickly angle up. The chopping motion imitates the severing of a thief's hand, which tells the subject they should be exiled like a lowlife thief.
Gay Man (top image) /// Lesbian (bottom image)
Gay Man and Lesbian
Meaning: Gay Man
Used In: Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia
One of the several hand gestures used in the Middle East that means Gay Man, this one is made by bringing the fingers and thumb together to look like a birds beak. This hand gesture is very degrading in that it indicates that gay men are like fowls when they move around, and that this person is considered a bird of that kind of feather...flocking together, so to speak.
Used In: South America
Unlike the vast number of gestures that indicate the homosexuality of men, there are very few to indicate one is a Lesbian. This gesture is done by, rubbing the palms of your hands together in such a way that imitates sexual contact without penetration (bump and grind). Although not always derogatory, it is extremely forward and immensely crude.
Used In: South America
If you are looking to fully insult a woman's virtue this is the hand gesture you have been searching for. This sign is done in very bad taste by, holding the arm flat across your body with fingers extended while quickly moving the arm back and forth like the actions of intercourse. With this hand gesture, you let those around you know that the lady in question is a hooker and that you are a willing participant.
Untrustworthy in My Opinion
Something Stinks in Here
Meaning: You are untrustworthy in my opinion
Used in: Southern Italy
This gesture finds itself in business negotiations more often than not. This gesture tells your business associates that you will not be taken advantage of. You have knowledge of the deceit they are attempting to perpetrate. To complete the gesture, move your nose side to side using your index and middle fingers. The movement means you think something stinks in the room, and you will get rid of the odor yourself if needed.
Meaning: May I caress Your Breasts
Used In: Lebanon and Syria (and many western countries)
A Middle Eastern expression of desire, this gesture asks a woman if the gesturer can caress her breasts. To complete this gesture, hold the hand horizontally and rotate as though screwing in a lightbulb. Use with caution. If executed improperly a light bulb may end up being the only thing you get to caress. (You thought I was going to say something else didn't you?)
Meaning: I'm ignoring You
Used In: Greece
Form a downward facing arrow with the arms, hands, and finger tips which point toward the genitals. This rude gesture means a person is being ignored by you. No special equipment is required, men and women both utilize this gesture in the same manner.
Meaning: Crazy Person
Used In: Southern Italy
When in southern Italy, there is a popular gesture that indicates craziness in a person. This is done by, cupping your left hand under your right elbow and bringing all fingers and thumb together in a point while rotating your right arm in a circular motion. The indication here is that the subject's brain is spinning as fast as are the blades of a coffee grinder.
I'm Making Fun of You
Meaning: I'm Making Fun of You
Used In: Worldwide
One of the oldest in our group of hand gestures, this one has but one meaning—taunting—but has many different names. In England alone, it is known by sixteen different names, one being "cocking a snook" (making a snout, that is). Where the gesture began is unknown, but the configuration is said to mimic a damaged nose or rooster's comb. It is actually a mild and playful insult when all is said and done. If you need to add a little flair to this taunting gesture, wiggle your fingers or place your other hand at the end of the first.
I Can Not Trust you
Meaning: I can NOT trust you
Used In: Southern Italy
I am told crabs themselves are very honest and up-front, but the way they walk—an unpredictably furtive side-to-side shuffle— would leave one feeling otherwise. This hand gesture links the little fingers to mimic the dungeness claw and furtive movement. Which implies the subject can not be trusted.
Interested in you Romantically
Meaning: Interested in you Romantically
Used In: Lebanon
Perhaps because it is a location that brings a tingle when touched just right, the neck has been considered one of the body's best locations for romantic inspiration. In America, "necking" is the same as saying "kissing." While in Lebanon, a guy can tell his love interest that he has romantic feelings for the young lady by simply massaging the back of his own neck. So, when in Lebanon, be sure to only tend to those stiff necks in private, or you may just end up with an unwanted date for the night!
Meaning: Stop Talking
Used In: France and USA
This hand gesture is a very harsh request. Also known as the ferme-la, more often than not it is accompanied by a verbal shout of ferme la bouche ("shut your mouth") and mimes the action of closing a mouth. To make this gesture, hold all of your fingers straight out and then clamp them down on your extended thumb, like you are grabbing something between your finger tips and thumb.
Five Finger Discount
Meaning: Dirty Thief
Used In: South America
In South America, when a known thief enters the room, making this gesture allows all others in the room to know his true intent. To make this hand gesture, simply sweep your arm across the table as if you were trying to gather any money that might belong to some one else. Repeat this gesture a couple of times to really get the point across.
The Hand I Wipe With
Meaning: I'm going to touch you or your food with the hand I use for wiping
Used In: Islamic countries
While using one's left hand is not a rude gesture in and of itself, using it in any Islamic country is at the very least a faux pas, sure to cause discomfort and be viewed as offensive. The left hand is generally reserved to use for body hygiene in these places of the world. If you offer food or a handshake with the left hand, you are certainly going to get a grossed-out reaction. Unless you are trying to gross-out the , limit the use of your left hand. Islamic community
Stick it (1)
Meaning: Stick it (1)
Used In: Lebanon, Pakistan, and Syria
Guaranteed to cause serious offense in areas of the Middle East, this hand gesture implies the degree of force it would take to thrust a large object through a particular circumference, causing unimagined discomfort. To make this gesture clear, push one fist through the grip of your other hand with significant force. You are guaranteed to offend your subject more than you could have dreamt.
Stick it (2)
Meaning: Stick it (2)
Used In: Greece, Latin America, Middle East, Russia, Sardinia, and western Africa
This rude hand gesture gets Americans in trouble all around the globe and most often in Latin American countries. In the USA this is a delightful little gesture that asks a person for a lift or shows approval for something that is really good. This couldn't be further from the meaning in the countries listed above. In these places, the thumbs up is an invitation to insert a thumb intra-anally. Jerk the thumb in an upward motion to add an extra serving of insult.
NOTE: In Turkey, this gesture is often an invitation to a homosexual encounter.
Five O'clock Shadow
Meaning: I'm Getting Bored of You
Used In: France
Another gesture that is related to the la barbe—which in French can mean "boring" as well as "the beard"—this hand signal has the gesturer stroke his face as if feeling for a five O'clock shadow. This is in an attempt to convince the subject that he has been chattering on so long that a full beard has had time to grow. When in France, a cleanly shaved face would be the safest way to avoid giving this insult.
Crazy and Stupid
Crazy and Stupid
Meaning: You are Crazy and Stupid all at Once
Used In: Japan
This gesture indicates stupidity in the Japanese culture. By pointing your index finger at your temple and rotating your finger a couple of times you get your point across.The gesture is used as both serious and playfully, so if your goal is to really offend your target, make sure to present it quite aggressively.
Meaning: You are Ugly
Used In: Japan
If your target is not only stupid but also ugly, you will want to add this gesture to your already harsh displays. To create this sign—usually aimed at an ugly girl—push the tip of the nose up with the index finger. It is intended to mimic the snout of a pig, which the Japanese find very ugly (big nostrils are not considered attractive in Japan). Because of this line of thinking, it is also very rude to blow your nose in public. If you simply must, be prepared to see this gesture pointed in your direction.
Meaning: Your Wife is a Cheater
Used In: Spain
Telling a friend that their wife has cheated is a really sensitive undertaking. Thankfully, in many countries, it can be a breeze to accomplish: one simply gives the subject the Corna. The Corna gesture has many meanings throughout the world, so consider yourself warned when using it. In some places it simply means good luck; while in others, it demonstrates how much a fan likes a sports team or rock group. The point here is this, if you are on the receiving end of the Corna gesture, don't be so quick to file divorce papers, they could just be telling you your wife liked the local Football Team.
You are a Beast
Meaning: You are a Beast
Used In: Japan
This highly insulting gesture is unique only to Japan. Keeping the thumb tucked tight to the palm of your hand, deploy all four fingers to represent the four legs of an animal. This nasty little hand sign references the oppressed filthy masses who work with four-legged animals as slaughter-house employees or in leather workshops.
When using this gesture be certain to tuck that thumb in, if the thumb is feathered out in a flat open claw along with the fingers, the gesture can be mistaken as meaning "I am going to violate your entire family, including the dog." No more extreme gesture exists.
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