|Making yourself understood
abroad can sometimes play out like an embarrassing game of charades.
What may seem like an innocent gesture here could have a completely
different -- and possibly obscene -- meaning in another country. To
help you avoid offending anyone, here are a few gestures to steer
Gesture: Thumbs up (pt. 1)
What you think it means: "It's all good!"
What it means in Thailand: A serious side-eye (or
similar). Some say it's very offensive, while others
contend it's more childish than obscene, like sticking your tongue
out. Best just to play it safe and keep your hands in your pockets.
What it means in Arabic countries: A thumbs up in
any Muslim country pretty much means, loosely translated, that you
hope the person you're gesturing at has a very pleasant trip to the
"V" sign (with the palm facing inward)
What you think it means: "Peace, man!"
What it means in Great Britain and Australia: The
equivalent of giving someone the middle finger.
extended open palm
What you think it means: "Stop!" or "Talk to the
What it means in Greece: "I'd like to rub excrement
in your face. The meaning behind this rude gesture reportedly dates
back to the Byzantine Empire, when citizens were encouraged to rub
excrement in the faces of shackled prisoners. At least that's what
the Internet says, and everyone knows the Internet doesn't lie.
"OK" (or "Rabbit", if you're making shadow animals on the wall)
What you think it means: "Everything's all good!"
What it means in Greece and Turkey: "You're a man,
and you're attracted to other men". We see the letters "O" and "K",
while they see a well-dressed person who moisturizes and is
well-versed in the works of Streisand.
What you think it means: "I hope everything turns
What it means in Vietnam: Vietnamese people think
crossed fingers look like lady parts, so flashing this at someone is
the equivalent of calling them the C-word.
Hook 'em horns
What you think it means: "Rock on!"
What it means in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and
Colombia: "You're so dense you don't realize your wife is
cheating on you". Often done behind a guy's back rather than to his
face, this gesture's a popular insult at soccer matches.
Beckoning arm wave
What you think it means: "Come here!"
What it means in Singapore: Death is coming. In the
Philippines, however, it's a gesture fit only for dogs, and can
actually land you in jail if you do it to a person.
Giving something with your left hand
What you think it means: "I'm giving you
something... and I just happen to be using my left hand"
What it means in many parts of the world: In a lot
of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the left hand is strictly
reserved for wiping one's ass, while the right hand is used for just
about everything else. So handing someone an item with your pooping
hand's pretty inconsiderate.
on the head
What you think it means: "You're so cute!"
What it means to anyone who's Buddhist: A fondle of
the privates. Buddhists believe the top of the head is where the
spirit lives, so patting the head is considered extremely