Five hand gestures to avoid

Five taboo gestures which shouldn’t be taken on your travels.

5 hand gestures to avoid

While these hand gestures may mean nothing of much consequence at home, that’s where they should probably stay. To avoid unintentionally insulting another culture, don’t take these five taboo gestures on your travels!

1. Patting someone on the head
In parts of Asia, in particular Thailand, the head is deemed scared and it is taboo to pat someone on the head. It is also wise to avoid passing things over others heads to avoid offending locals.
2. Thumbs up
While thumbs up is almost part of the Australian language, it is deeply offensive to people in South America, the Middle East and West Africa. What we would consider a good gesture, it also has other meanings in Europe so best to avoid using outside of Australia.
3. Beckoning
While calling or beckoning someone with a curled index finger may not offend anyone back home, in the Philippines it is regarded as a gesture so low one would only use it on dogs.
4. A-Ok
Similar to giving someone the thumbs up the A-Ok sign, where the thumb and finger next to it in to form an ‘O’ can cause grave offence in Brazil.
5. Rock on
While popular with rock stars, a clenched fist with the pinkie and index fingers up, means something quite different to the Greeks, Spanish and Italians. Unless you are trying to communicate that your wife is sleeping with someone else it’s best not to use this when travelling in these countries!

Do you know of any other hand gestures that are taboo in other parts of the world?


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    30th Aug 2014
    well you got number 5 wrong!(rock on) that sign means "El Diablo" used to ward off the Devil.
    The "Bunny Ears"that everyone is so fond of using in photos,is the "Cuckold" symbol.
    31st Aug 2014
    Whatever it means I will not have a problem as there is no way I can get either of my hands into that configuration :)
    You people are good to be able to do that.
    12th Sep 2014
    Thank you for explaining that, rob, now I know why I don't like either of those gestures. :)
    30th Aug 2014
    in PNG beckoning with the palm up is an invitation to the bushes....
    and male - female holding hands is not good..
    30th Aug 2014
    YOU are wrong about number 5 Rob...SJFallick is correct. Try it in Italy or to an Italian and see!!. Maggie
    30th Aug 2014
    actually,the "El Diablo sign"is peculiar to parts of Southern Italy(as is the "Bunny Ears",and some parts of South America.

    30th Aug 2014
    If the Asians reversed the 'bunny ears' it would be a very offensive sign in Australia. I always tell them to be careful.
    30th Aug 2014
    Pointing the index finger is offensive in Indonesia, as is using the foot as an indicator or showing the sole. Arrow
    Thai Traveller
    30th Aug 2014
    In most of Asia, pointing at someone is offensive. It used to be when the king pointed with his finger at someone, they'd just been selected for execution. Use your thumb only if you must point.

    Beckoning with the palm up, as in PNG, is impolite. Always palm down.
    30th Aug 2014
    There was about 30 years ago a government advert for loans I think, that is the classic of what gestures not to use and it was shown by HR people of what not to do. From my declining memory (ha!) it had a lot of Australian hand movements/ gestures, all of them above board, but to particularly the Greeks and Italians it could be regarded as not being er family friendly.
    30th Aug 2014
    Just as well those countries aren't involved in all types of Motorsport. The thumb up in the air means everything is OK with the car.. The pointing down means all is not well with the racing car - usually serious. Well, it does in Australia. In open-wheeler cars a beckoning signal points to which side you want the car behind to pass you on.
    31st Aug 2014
    makes you wonder how these rappers would get on in some countries they way they move their hands and fingers one could only imagine the uproar from the people.
    31st Aug 2014
    We were always taught at school NOT to speak with our hands. We have a much maligned expressive language so surely there are enough words we can use without resorting to obscene hand gestures.
    31st Aug 2014
    ...... "Flips the Bird" at all and sundry!!1 They forgot No. 6 - lol lol lol ...............
    1st Sep 2014
    12th Sep 2014
    "the head is deemed scared" - shouldn't that be "sacred"?
    I think that patting anyone on the head is quite offensive... it is demeaning & condescending, so we shouldn't be doing it anyway.
    If visiting another country, we just need to be mindful of what we are doing... much as we expect foreigners to be when they come to Oz.

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