Our world is a mix of different cultures, religions, sects and communities. What is standard practice, acceptable and friendly at your location may have different meanings at overseas locations. Before you travel, it is important that you understand a bit about the people and their way of life. One thing that travelers often overlook is the various gestures that are used to communicate with people abroad. If you are not careful, you can end up offending others. Here are some gestures that you need to be careful about while travelling abroad.
Thumbs-up – This is an acceptable gesture in most parts of the world. However, in specific countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Greece and parts of Italy, a thumbs-up gesture can be treated as “up yours…”. Not everyone may be offended, but it’s still better to avoid thumbs-up sign at these locations.
Using your index finger to call someone – In case you want to call someone, try not to use your index finger in countries like Japan, Singapore and Philippines. In Philippines, this gesture is usually used to call dogs and is considered offensive if used to signal to a human being. In Japan and Singapore, this gesture signifies death.
OK gesture – In countries like France, Turkey, Venezuela and Brazil, the OK hand sign may be mistaken for a vulgar slang.
Fingers crossed – In countries like Vietnam, showing the fingers crossed sign with your index and middle finger can be mistaken for the female reproductive organ. This can be quite offending in case you flash it to a woman, especially to someone who does not understand the true meaning of fingers crossed.
Stop sign – When you open your hand at someone, you are essentially asking them to stop. However, in countries like Greece, the Stop sign may be considered insulting. In the Byzantine era, criminals were paraded on the streets and those watching used to put charcoal on their faces with their open hands. That’s why Stop sign may be offensive in Greece.
Pat on the head – While a pat on the head is a sign of appreciation, love, care and affection, it can be treated as offensive in some cultures. For example, in Thailand where Buddhism is largely practiced, the head is treated as a sacred place where the spirit resides. It’s better to avoid patting someone on the head when you are in Thailand.
V-sign – With your palm facing outwards, the V or Victory sign may be acceptable to most. However, if the V-sign is flashed with the palm facing inward, it can be treated as showing someone the middle finger. You should avoid this in countries like Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ireland.
Devil’s horn – This gesture made using your index finger and pinky finger can signify youthful exuberance, dominance, power and superiority. However, in countries like Brazil, Portugal, Italy and Columbia, the Devil’s horn sign can mean that the individua’s wife is sleeping with another person. Be careful when using this gesture in these countries.