Five 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?

Written by SJ