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Hand gestures you should better not use in foreign countries

Friday, October 2, 2015

When travelling in a foreign country, the language barrier can work against you. Using hand gestures is the next best thing to express yourself. However: While you’re thinking thumbs up means everything’s good, it could mean a whole other thing abroad. Here's a list with hand gestures that have a whole other meaning than you would expect.

Thumbs up

Here in England the thumb up is a sign of approval, but you want to be careful with pointing your thumb up in foreign countries. This gesture has a whole other meaning in Mediterranean countries, Russia and the Middle East. In these parts of the world a thumb up is considered an obscene insult.

‘Come over here’

Do you want somebody to come over to you by making the luring movement with your index finger? In Europe this is fine, but avoid this movement in Singapore or Japan. In these countries it represents death. And it’s not really nice to wish someone dead while you’re on vacation.

Rock on

Are you enjoying a heavy metal song on vacation and holding up the so called devil horn in the sky to show your appreciation? Better not do this in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Italy and Colombia. Here it completely means something else. If you sign someone with devil horns you accuse that person of being an adulterer.

Fists in the air

Throwing the fist in the air means solidarity or enjoying the beat. Well at least here, not in Pakistan. There the closed fist means up yours.


Our sign to stop is putting your hand up with open palm. Seems innocent right? Well in Nigeria the residents get quite nervous when your showing them the stop sign because in Nigeria it’s the sign of bad curse. If you want to use the stop sign in Nigeria, use both hand instead of just one.

Did you ever had a little misunderstanding by using the wrong hand gesture?