6 hand gestures that mean different things in different places.

Gestures appear quite innocent until you realise what it could mean to someone else from a different culture. Use wisely.


Hand signals come quite naturally to most of us but little do we know that such a simple thing could cause a cultural faux pas (make you lose face). To save yourself from feeling ashamed, it is best to know what certain hand gestures mean to different cultures.


1.   Thumbs Up


What it means to us: “Good job” or just plain “GOOD” in general.

What it means to others: In Bangladesh, India this gesture is recognised as an insult. In certain parts of the Middle-East thumbs up is a highly offensive thumbs down.

The Thumbs Up gesture has been a cause of confusion for many, many years.

2. The Horn Sign


What it means to us: It is a sign of approval in Rock n Roll, Rock On! \m/

What it means to others: In Latin countries such as Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Cuba, Colombia, Brazil and Italy, to make this sign is to tell someone that their spouse or partner is cheating on them.

People have often associated this gesture with rebellion and anarchy, use this hand gesture at the right place at the right time… Perhaps at a rock concert.

3. The ‘OK’ sign


What it means to us: It means that everything is fine, great, good, okay, alright.

What it means to others: In Brazil it could possibly mean something offensive, as seen as Richard Nixon’s arrival into Rio de Janeiro raising his hand to form the ‘OK’ sign in expressing how everything is going good, the crowd proceeded to booing him in reply.

We can understand that this gesture may cause discomfort what with conspiracies surrounding how it may be linked to the illuminati, seen from artists such as Lady Gaga who used this gesture on several album covers, music videos, photographs.

4. The ‘V’ Sign


What it means to us: This hand sign is very common with Asian people, especially girls taking selfies with what appears to look like bunny ears cause KAWAII. It is also the international ‘peace’ sign or ‘victory’ sign that was adopted by American protestors against the Vietnam War. Because hippies of the day #hippyotd were often seen flashing these hand signs while saying “Peace” – it gained fame as the Peace sign.

What it means to others: In other places such as UK and South Africa, turning the sign around with the back of your hand facing forward instead of frontal means something completely insulting and obscene.

This sign has the least amount of worries surrounding it. Use it as much as you want.

5. The shaka sign


What it means to us: It is commonly used among surfers in reference to the quote “hang loose” mostly in Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand. It could also mean a gesture to get someone to call you, the hand sign acts as a imaginary phone.

What it means to others: In Spain, Equador, Chile, Russia and Germany this sign could be used to suggest having a drink, the hand sign acts as an imaginary bottle or glass.

There is nothing offensive about this hand gesture at all.

6. Pointing at Things/People

What it means to us: This gesture is a bad manner all around the world. I’m sure you’ve heard a parent say to a child: “Don’t be rude! Stop pointing at people,” at least once in your life.

What it means to others: It means the exact same thing.

Best not to be pointing fingers at anyone of any culture at all.


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