Around The World in 18 Gestures (Infographic)

Wherever you're travelling, the number one thing you DON'T want to do is upset the locals.

Every country is different in the way they speak and communicate with one another, and what is considered acceptable in the UK is not always acceptable overseas.

In fact, some of the 'innocent' gestures we use over here - like the OK sign - are considered extremely offensive in other parts of the world; using the OK sign in Greece, Spain or Brazil is not a good idea.


Because the OK symbol in those countries actually represents a bodily orifice...if you use that symbol in a conversation with a local you're basically calling them an a**hole - which is probably not a good idea.

Read the infographic below to discover other UK gestures that are misunderstood in different parts of the world - and learn some new ones.

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Infographic Transcript: Around The World in 18 Gestures

Offensive Gestures

The Chin Flick (Belgium, France, Northern Italy, Tunisia)

What it is: Brushing your hand under the chin in a forward flicking motion.

What it means: “Get lost” (in a more aggressive language); an insulting gesture typically used in arguments.

The Fig (Turkey, Russia, Indonesia)

What it is: Clenching your hand into a fist with your thumb protruding between the first two fingers.

What it means: Basically, “screw you”. It also symbolizes female genitalia in some countries, as the Italian word for the female vulva mean fig.

The Forearm Jerk (France, Southern Europe, Brazil)

What it is: Slapping one hand down on the opposite bicep, raising that arm into a fist.

What it means: In France, it’s called the bras d’honneur (arm of honor - which is sarcastic). This gesture is the equivalent of giving someone the middle finger and means “up yours!”.

The Moutza (Greece, Middle East, Africa)

What it is: Thrusting your spread hand towards another person with your palm facing them.

What it means: Similar to “talk to the hand”, the gesture denotes displeasure towards the recipient. The origin of this gesture is said to be Byzantine, when criminals were shamed by rubbing handfuls of cinder (moutzos) over their faces.

The Cutis (India, Pakistan)

What it is: Basically thumbs up, except you push the nail on your against your front teeth and flick, whilst saying “cutta!”

What it means: Put simply, this gesture means “F*** you”.

Five Fathers (Arab Countries, Caribbean)

What it is: Pointing your left index finger at your right hand while grouping all finders on the right hand together.

What it means: “You have five fathers” - an insulting way of saying ‘your mother is a wh*re’. This insult is extremely offensive and almost certain to provoke violence.

Misunderstood Gestures

Nodding/Shaking Head

In most parts of the world, nodding the head symbolizes “yes” and shaking the head side to side means “no”.

This is reversed in Greece and Bulgaria, where nodding the head up and down means “no” and shaking/tilting the head either side means “yes”.


The ‘OK’ sign can cause serious offence if used in Greece, Spain or Brazil as it symbolises a body orifice; if you use this symbol you are calling someone an a**hole. In Turkey it’s meant to be an insult towards gay people.

In some Middle Eastern countries, such as Kuwait, the “OK” sign signifies the evil eye.

Crossed Fingers

In Vietnam, crossed fingers are said to resemble a woman’s genitals, and are considered especially heinous when directed at another person specifically.

“Rock On!”

The symbol for rockers everywhere also has another meaning in Spain, Italy and Greece, where it is used to signify that your wife is sleeping with someone else!

Beckoning Sign

The “come here” gesture is one of the worst signals you can use in the Philippines - as they think it’s so rude and offensive they only use it for dogs. You can even get arrested for using this gesture! This is also considered a rude gesture in many other parts of the world, including Slovakia, East Asia and Singapore.

Thumbs Up

In most American and European cultures, the thumbs up is an indicator of a job well done, or “that’s great”.

However, be wary of using this hand sign in Australia, Greece or the Middle East as it basically means “up yours” or “sit on this!”.

Gestures Around The World

Austria - To wish someone good luck, make two fists (thumbs tucked in) and make a gesture like you are slightly pounding on a table.

Finland - Standing with your arms crossed is considered a sign of arrogance.

France - Two vulgar gestures in France would be to snap the fingers of both hands or slap an open palm over a closed fist.

Russia - Shaking hands across a threshold is considered unlucky. In fact, some delivery services in Russia refuse to conduct a transition across a threshold.

Thailand - In 2014, the 3 fingers and raised arm salute (used in “The Hunger Games”) become the unofficial symbol of opposition to Thailand’s May 22 military coup. The junta later declared this gesture illegal.

India - It is extremely offensive to show the sole of your shoe/foot to someone, and you should avoid using your feet to point or touch objects with. This is due to feet being unclean and the lowest part of the body.

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