10 Hand Gestures To Never Use Abroad

a woman holding her hand up

Hand gestures, much like words can have different meanings in different places. It pays to learn a little about the country you will be visiting to avoid confusion and an honest mistake (which just might piss somebody off)!

In the U.S. we shake our head up/ down for yes and sideways for no. However, in some countries this is not the case. Over the summer we visited a few countries in the Balkans. I don’t recall the exact rules but in Albania & Macedonia a head nod actually signaled the opposite of what we’re used to!

Yahoo recently had a fun slideshow about 10 Innocent Hand Gestures You Should Never Use Abroad.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Stop: (Image above) The stop gesture is an insult in Greece which dates back to the Byzantine times. According to the Yahoo, when shackled criminals were paraded through the streets and gawkers were allowed to smear charcoal or excrement in their faces using their open palms.

a group of people eating at a restaurantLeft Hand: In various countries around the world the left hand is seens as unclean (it’s the hand you use to wipe yourself in the bathroom). Make sure to eat ony with your right hand around the Middle East, India, Sri Lanka & Africa.

a baby being massaged by a handPat on the Head: We’re used to giving a simple pat on the head (usually to a child) as a positive gesture but in Thailand this is defintely not the case. According to Yahoo, The head is the most sacred part of the body in Thailand. In the Buddhist faith, it’s where the spirit lives. Thus, touching someone else’s head or hair is a definite faux pas.

a woman wearing a hat and sunglasses giving thumbs upThumbs Up: The thumbs up is a positive sign at home which I tend t use quite a bit to signal a good job to kids during class. However in Afghanistan, parts of Italy & Greece it means “up yours”.

Click HERE to check out the full Yahoo slideshow of Hand Gestures To Never Use Abroad.

All images in post are from the Yahoo article.

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