There are lots of different ways to communicate with one another. While verbal communication is over-emphasized in our modern-day world, there’s more to communication than words and linguistics. Body language is a powerful form of communication, and is a much more expressive way to express emotions and feelings naturally. Basically, body language relates to the various manners people convey without speaking. It is a “language” that reveals varied clues about person’s intention, emotions, and feelings through gestures, facial expressions, body posture and eye movements.. It is important to be aware of these signals because they are, like it or not, sent and interpreted almost completely subconsciously. HAND GESTURES AROUND THE WORLD.
While traveling to foreign countries we should always be aware of cultural sensitivities that may arise while carrying out otherwise “normal” daily activities. It is also important to be aware of the meaning of gestures used in a particular country. Many gestures have different meanings depending on where you are and the cultures you’re interacting with.
To avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and problems, please refer to the following list of the most popular hand gestures, as well as their meanings across the world.
Victoria (V sign)
Two fingers pointing up have a positive meaning and signify victory. However, we must remember to direct our fingers in the right direction. The top of the hand should point towards us, the inner side and fingers towards the person we are speaking to. On the other hand, if you show the back of the hand to the recipient, they may find it offensive or encourage a confrontation, especially in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Hitting the neck with an open hand
In Poland and in the countries of Eastern Europe, this gesture signifies an invitation to drink alcohol. It should be avoided in Italy as it marks the guillotine and can be treated by Italians as a death threat.
I guess we can all agreee on this one. Wherever you wander, the middle finger stands the test of time as one of the oldest offensive gestures- a way to insult the interlocutor.
In both the UK and the USA, this gesture is used to reinforce the wish of happiness. In Vietnam, on the other hand, this gesture is a vulgar term for female genitals. Once made towards the interlocutor, it holds a very offensive meaning. On the other hand, in some European countries, it stands for the sign “X”, the Scottish cross of Saint Andrew, and is used to wish others happiness. Still, as you may also know, keeping your fingers crossed behind your back while making a promise often amounts to perjury.
In Anglo-Saxon countries this gesture means ‘ok’, or ‘all good’. In turn, in countries such as France, Austria and Germany, it means only the number 1. There are places where this gesture should be avoided, surprisingly indeed. In the Middle East and southern Europe (especially in Sardinia), a thumbs up is synonymous with an outstretched middle finger. In Greece it can be treated as an insult or an offer of sexual intercourse.
Finger ring gesture
For most of us, the finger ring gesture means that something is good or everything is fine. Some people use it in restaurants to express admiration and satisfaction with food served – frequently by kissing a circle made of thumb and index finger. This gesture, however, should be avoided in Germany, Turkey and South America, as it can be understood as calling someone an ‘a*****e’, or ascribing homosexual inclinations.
Clench your fist with your thumb between your index and middle fingers. In the United States, parents use this gesture to play the ‘took your nose’ game with their children. On the other hand, in Poland, it conveys the meaning that something will go wrong- as in ‘it won’t work’. In turn, in Turkey, Indonesia, China and Russia, it is an offensive gesture.
The roots of this gesture come from ancient Rome, where it was used to wish the other person happiness in a relationship, as well as fertility. The fig fruit has been associated with female fertility, and ‘fica’ in Italian, for fig, is a slang term for the vagina that continues to be used today.
Summoning gesture – finger extended and bent
This gesture is often applied to people we know because it is quite intimate. In Poland, it has a positive tone and means ‘come closer’. On the other hand, in Indonesia, Australia and Latin America this gesture means a willingness to use the services of a prostitute. In Asia, this gesture is used to summon a dog.
Horns (little finger and index finger stretched out)
Quite often people see this gesture as a symbol of Satanists. However, this sign is used by adolescents at rock concerts. It thereby expresses that one has a lot of fun and identifies themself with their peers. ‘Horns’, however, should be avoided in southern Europe because they are associated with the act of cuckolding. The interlocutor may perceive it as an allusion that he is being cheated by his significant other.
You can go to exotic, foreign lands, fall in love with a stranger, connect with the culture, and even feel like you belong- all without speaking the local tongue. That’s because people can understand your intentions despite a language barrier, and can communication with you on a deeper level than via words.
Body language and non-verbal gestures matter a big deal in communication. In fact, it is arguably a more powerful way of communication as it says what words cannot. Language, frankly, has been a limiting tool of communication for centuries. While the everyday Joe is not a linguist nor holds a Doctoral level command of a language at hand, still, the idea of a specific word to convey a “feeling” sounds very primitive. We as humans have made it to the moon, yet we still use the words “happy”, “sad”, and “satisfied”, as if feelings can’t be treated with a bit more sophistication. And this all demonstrates that humans, despite all the technological advancements, remain primitive beings, unrefined and unable to resist the crude nature that we were born into.
Check our article about weird laws here