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Dangerous hand signals: what gestures mean

The mission was delicate. In 1995, US Congressman Bill Richardson traveled to Iraq to negotiate with then President Saddam Hussein about the release of two Americans. When Richardson sat down, he stupidly crossed his legs so that Hussein could see the soles of his shoes. A serious affront! Furious, the Iraqi president immediately left the room and broke off the negotiations. Richardson should have known better: the sole of a shoe is considered a dirty part of people in many Arab and Asian cultures. Showing it to someone is a grave insult.

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Insidious gestures that can be dangerous

You can't not communicate, warned the philosopher Paul Watzlawick. Even when we are silent, our body speaks. The problem with this is that our body language is not a global universal language. Some gestures can have completely different meanings depending on the country and culture.

In India, Pakistan and Bulgaria, for example, listeners rock their heads back and forth when they agree to the speaker, which reminds us Western Europeans of shaking our heads and thus of a negation. In the Arab world, on the other hand, just raising an eyebrow can mean a "no". Culturally inexperienced business travelers can be in dire straits.

If you point your finger at something, you appear more competent

While pointing at someone in public is considered grossly rude, pointing at SOMETHING has a different effect: It makes them appear more competent. That is the result of a study by the two psychologists Carolyn Palmquist and Vikram Jaswal from the University of Virginia. Pointing at something is a gesture of authority. Since body language signals have a much stronger effect on our counterpart than the spoken word, pointing the finger does not remain without a suggestive effect.

The 9 most dangerous gestures abroad

Just what you can do with your hands! Who in Turkey would like to invite someone with their thumbs up to engage in homosexual practices, even though they just wanted to say: "I like it here!" In Quentin Tarantino's film “Inglourious Basterds”, on the other hand, an English spy only reveals himself through the wrong hand signal: He orders three whiskey by showing the landlord three fingers - ring, middle and index fingers. Fatal! This is how English people order and Germans traditionally use their thumb, index and middle fingers.

Fortunately, the war is long over - but the risk of misunderstandings persists. So that such mishaps don't happen to you, we have deciphered the 8 most treacherous hand signals (and facial expressions) for you. It starts with the first hand signal: "Okay" isn't that everywhere ...

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The so-called ring sign

The thumb and index finger, shaped into a ring, is an important communication symbol among divers: it is used to signal to fellow divers: “Everything is fine, I'm fine”. The same is true over water in the USA and Northern Europe. Here the gesture also stands for “Okay, good”. In Belgium and Tunisia, on the other hand, it means “zero”, in Japan it stands for “money”, in South America for “perfection”, in France for “superb, delicious”, in Italy for “What are you talking about?”. In many other countries, however, you should be careful with this. The thumb-finger ring is often an obscene insult - it means “anus” or “you ass!”.

The thumbs up

In Germany, this gesture is usually completely unproblematic. In Australia, Iran, Afghanistan and Nigeria, however, it should be avoided if at all possible. If you say “Everything's fine!” In the West or “I want to go with you” on the side of the road, Australians express the greatest disdain - or in less beautiful words: “Piss off!” In China, on the other hand, this gesture simply means that despite the one thumb Number "five".

The victory sign

With this hand gesture, the index and middle fingers are stretched out to form a "V". In this country this is seen as a sign of joy and certainty of victory or for “two more beers, please!”. In Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, on the other hand, a fine distinction is made in which direction the palm of the hand is pointing: If the other person sees the back of the hand, this is considered a serious insult - similar to the "finger finger". The V-shape doesn't even have to be recognizable. It is enough to keep both fingers together. In countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, however, the gesture is often made in photos and is intended to show that the person is happy.

The crossing of fingers or also the oath sign

The crossing of the index and middle finger - in this country it is a sign that you intend not to keep your given oath. Or in short: the gesture stands for perjury or a deliberate lie. In China, on the other hand, only the number ten is displayed. In Canada and Brazil, on the other hand, it is even an extremely positive hand sign: Those who like each other wish themselves “good luck” with this finger gesture.

The raised index finger

Pointing the finger is similarly misleading abroad. In Germany, anyone who means himself is pointing to his chest; The Japanese do not understand this - they point to their own noses. If you want to underline important things in your speech, you will again raise your index finger or use it to “hack” an imaginary point. You shouldn't do that in India. Here, this gesture is considered grossly offensive. But that's not nice in Germany either - always seems like a teacher. Politicians have therefore developed a harmless counterpart: The finger is not stretched out, but touches the thumb with the tip. Doesn't look like a clenched fist or a teacher's finger.

The clenched fist

Admittedly, this gesture does not promise much sympathy in this country either. Instead, she expresses anger or the threat of a beating, motto: "It's about to go!" If the elbow is torn up by the blockage of the second hand, that means in turn: "You can do me!". Quite different, however, in the Arab world. There you should never show the gesture to someone of the opposite sex (unless you mean what you mean by it). There the clenched fist means: “Do you want to sleep with me?” The same applies if you hit the other hand with your fist. In West Africa, on the other hand, the people seal a negotiation, it says: "I agree!"

The so-called horns

What is a common gesture among rockers and heavy metal fans already means “protection from calamity” in Argentina. In Spain and Italy (Italian: "mano cornuta") travelers should not suggest this: Another (horned) man is told that his wife is cheating on him. If you hold the horn hand (but then with your thumb and little finger) to your ear like a telephone receiver, you give people in Portugal and Nigeria to understand: “I don't have time right now, but I'll call you later!” The people in Hawaii greet each other like this every day.

The "cutthroat"

The gesture is also called "neck cut". The sign bodes little good for us. As a rule, it indicates that someone is about to be "cut a head shorter" or killed. In Poland, Russia or the Ukraine, on the other hand, they explain themselves as saying that the person who is looked at is drunk. Translated, this means something like: "He's got his neck full".

Facial expressions: staring

This is not a hand signal, but facial expressions are dangerous. In western countries, direct eye contact often stands for strength of character and sincerity; but in Asia he is simply rude. In Africa it is even cheeky to stare at superiors, so subordinates avoid eye contact at all. And in Arab countries, men will look at women as little as possible. Even with business contacts (which many mistakenly misunderstand as belittling or arrogance). The opposite is true: a Muslim wants to honor a woman with it, staring at it would be improper.

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