Communication is the key and sometimes the key to land you in trouble. Misunderstanding is second on the ‘many ways to get into trouble’ list. After hankering for that dream vacation to a faraway destination where you are so in love with the fact that you know no one, and the smile from a stranger gives you an intuition of who is going to be your next new friend, you’ve already ascertained that this will be a laudable holiday. But, if that stranger is a local whose cultures you are unfamiliar with, he might just turn out to be your next enemy who is about to misunderstand your innocent gestures.
Most travelers use gestures to put across their feelings especially when they’re not sure about the language of their holiday destination. Oblivious to the fact that some of our gestures are actually perceived as an offending expression in several countries, we may end up black and blue behind bars for no fault of our own. Here’s a few gestures you should avoid in order to not chafe someone’s nerves while travelling abroad.
In India, raising the thumb simply means ‘that is perfect.’ It is a very positive way of expressing a liking or appreciation towards something. For example, if Indians watch you performing any act of kindness, most of them would raise their thumbs at you showing you that that act was appreciated.
In Iran raising the thumb and raising the middle finger are more or less the same. Funny but true. An Iranian would take offense while you’re innocently expressing appreciation and probably end up bashing you for none of your fault.
The Peace Gesture
When Indians raise their pointer and the middle finger together, they mean peace, peace out or victory. Had a fight? Raise these two fingers in front of the front person and they’re friends again, in India.
In England if your knuckles face the front person while doing the peace sign, you’d probably get slapped. The British look at these two fingers as the ‘F-word’ in actions. No idea where that came from!
The Shake Hand
Indians use the hand shake as a greeting etiquette, especially when they are being introduced to a stranger. "Hey, it was a pleasure meeting you." Or "Hi, how are you doing?" with a handshake is nothing new to Indians.
In Saudi Arabia shaking hands with the opposite sex simply means "I’d like to have you in bed.”
Huh?? How?? Why?? From where??
Flowers are a sign of love, romance, and a sweet way of saying thank you. In India and most countries flowers are sent across as a gesture of love and appreciation.
In Russia it isn’t always the same. If by chance your bouquet has flowers that count in even numbers you’ve just sent funeral flowers to a person who is alive.
Maybe an old belief! If you are sending a Russian flowers, don’t forget to count them.
The ‘Fantastic’ Gesture
Three fingers up to say that’s lovely may actually spoil a lovely day for you in Brazil. While you’re only trying to compliment the front person to express liking towards something you appreciate, a Brazilian will think you’re abusing him/her.
This sign to a Brazilian means you’re calling them an a**hole or asking them to go F*ck themselves.
The High Five Gesture
While not only Indians but most people across the globe would raise their hand up with an open palm to say ‘Hi’ or give you a Hi-Fi, people in Greece, Mexico, the Middle East, and Africa would probably give you a Hi-Fi in the face with a chair on receiving that gesture.
Why? Because raising your hand with open palms is a sign or rubbing dirt and garbage onto the front person. A historic story behind this belief!
In India and a few other countries people cross their fingers wishing for good luck or in hope that nothing bad happens. But this superstition wouldn’t work in Vietnam. As you’re most likely to get a thrashing for crossing your fingers there.
In Vietnam this is perceived as an indication to a woman’s genitalia. While you’re hoping for luck the Vietnamese would think you’re calling them a P*ssy.
The 'Rock on' Gesture
Call it the ‘horn’ sign or the sign that says ‘you rock’, Spain, Columbia, Greece, Brazil and Italy think you’re trying to convey to a man that he is a cuckold dealing with his unfaithful wife.
Oops! Beware. Do not hurt that male ego if you want to enjoy a safe holiday in these countries.
The ‘Little Pinky’ Gesture
Photo by Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff
Sticking that little finger up is a gesture to convey your discomfort of a bursting bladder, isn't it? Not in Japan though! In Japan, showing a Japanese woman your pinky finger is a way of calling her a mistress. The people in the Mediterranean region look at the same sign as a way of mocking the size of the male genitalia.
The ‘Come Here’ Gesture
While most of the world uses the come here gesture to call people standing afar, the people in the Philippines use this sign only to call dogs. Calling a person in this country by this gesture is considered highly offensive. So offensive that you could even be imprisoned for this gesture.
The moral of the story is: keep those gestures solely for your country, cause no one can understand those actions and expressions better than your own countrymen.