10 Common Hand Gestures That Are Rude in Other Countries (2023)

Just as slang words, table manners, and other common customs vary greatly from nation to nation, so do rude gestures. Here are some surprising hand motions you'll want to be careful about making in certain countries.

Some handy precautions

The last thing you want to do when traveling to a new country is to offend the locals. While this may seem easy enough to avoid doing, sometimes cultural differences can make even simple hand gestures get lost in translation. For instance, in some parts of the world, motions as well-intentionedas a pointing finger or a peace sign are seen as insulting. Here are several hand gestures you probably make all the time that are the equivalent of “flipping the bird”—or otherwise demeaning—in other countries. On the contrary, though, these 10 behaviors that Americans see as rude are totally welcome abroad.

Iran: Thumbs-up

What might seem to Americans like a universally positive gesture is not, in fact, universal. “Unfortunately, in Iran and neighboring countrieslike Afghanistan, the thumbs-up is equivalent to the middle finger!” explainsDana Hooshmand, an author for Discover Discomfort, a language- and culture learning resource. In America, the middle finger is the profane one; in Iran, it’s the thumb. Though it’s certainly good to have this knowledge, and you should try your best to avoid making any offensive gestures, Hooshmand assures that you likely won’t incur any real wrath if you slip up. “Political tensions notwithstanding, the vast majority of everyday Iranians are gregarious, worldly, and educated, and are more amused than offended if a visiting American makes an innocent mistake,” he told Reader’s Digest.

United Kingdom: Backwards peace sign

All over the world, people hold up their second and third fingers to declare, “Peace!” But if you do it in the United Kingdom—in a certain way—you might instead be inciting a skirmish. If your palm is facing away from you, it’s harmless—in fact, Winston Churchill used it as a “V for victory” gesture quite a bit during World War II. Backward, though, it’s a big ol’ insult. One unsubstantiated, but certainly fun, theory behind it is that it stems from a 15th-century battle. War prisoners were said to have had their second and third fingers chopped off so that they’d no longer be able to fire bows. Prisoners who escaped before undergoing this punishment, therefore, would flash those two fingers as they ran away. The gesture’s derisive, taunting connotations, proponents say, remain to this day.

(Video) Top 10 Rudest Gestures Around The World

“The veracity of that has been hard to nail down, given how long ago that was and the nature of war,” explains No Momo, Chief Innovations Officer at NoMomo Development. But the veracity of the gesture itself is undisputed—as Momo learned himself when he unknowingly made it during an “impromptu group photo” during a business trip to Dublin. “[The] flash went off, and just then a hand grabbed mine and gently but firmly twisted my hand around, so [the] palm was out,” he remembers sheepishly. If you travel to the United Kingdom, you’ll also want to brush up on these common words that mean very different things across the pond.

Malaysia: Pointing with your index finger

As a little kid, you may have been chastised that “it’s rude to point!” especially if you dared pair the gesture with laughter. But, while it can be inconsiderate in the United States in certain circumstances, an index-finger point is alwaysrude in Malaysia.As a matter of fact, because it can be offensive in some cultures, employees at Disney parks are actually trained to avoid pointing with their index fingers. Instead, if they must point to something, they use two fingers. At Disney, that is—actually in Malaysia, the common alternative is to point with your thumb (particularly your right thumb).

Brazil: The “OK” sign

Here’s another commonly “positive” one, like the thumbs-up, that can potentially ensnare American tourists. While it represents an “O” and a “K” in the U.S.A.,it “describes a malodorous body part” in the South American nation, according to travel blogger Talek Nantes. She says that it is similarly insulting in some Middle Eastern nations. Needless to say, if you flash this at someone (particularly with your palm facing toward you), you’re not conveying that you think they’re “A-OK.” Do you know about these words that used to be insulting but are now compliments?

Italy and Spain: “Hang loose” (or the “rock on” sign)

These gestures, generally positive and “cool” in the United States, can get you in trouble in some western European nations. “Hang loose”—thumb and pinky in the air with the other three fingers folded down—and “rock on”—where it’s your index finger and pinky—run into trouble because they can also mimic horns. Torben Lonne, a diving instructor for Dive.In who travels internationally quite a bit, learned this firsthand on a trip to Sardinia. “There were some surfer-looking types hanging out on the beach, and as I walked past I gave them the ‘hang loose’ gesture and a smile,” he told Reader’s Digest. “Immediately the guy starting gesticulating and yelling at me as if I offended one of his relatives.”

(Video) Rude Hand Gestures From Around The World

Lonne’s wife, who speaks some Italian, came to the rescue, explaining what he’d done wrong. “Using ‘hang loose,’ or any form of hand gesture that resembles horns, symbolizes…a husband whose wife is cheating on him and it’s public knowledge,” Lonne explains. (More literally, the “horns” are supposed to represent a castrated bull.) The fact that even a chill surfer got riled up over it is proof enough of its power to offend. You might be surprised by some of the surprisingly offensive origins of expressions we use all the time.

Thailand: Touching someone’s head

In the United States, patting someone’s head (especially that of a baby or little kid) can be a sweet, loving gesture, and ruffling someone’s hair is a playful one (that perhapscouldoffend a particularly vain person). But in Thailand, it can be a serious offense, Nantes says. The head “is considered the most sacred part of the body,” she explains. So keep your hands away from others’ heads to avoid disrespecting or soiling this cleanliness. Likewise, the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body, so “pointing with the toe of your foot is insulting in Thailand,” she adds, saying that this rule applies in some other southeastern Asian countries as well.

India, many Middle Eastern countries: Using your left hand

While in the United States, you’ll find no shortage of lefty pride, southpaws will want to be careful about using their left hand as they normally would should they travel to India or the Middle East. Why? Well, because there, the right and the left hands have specifically designated tasks. “The right hand…is used for eating, passing money, or picking up items for purchase,” explains Emily Mosby, intercultural agility trainer and author of Mosby Global LLC. The left hand is reserved for less pleasant tasks such as cleaning yourself—most notably, after using the toilet. Because of this, “the left hand is unclean and not used for other activities,” Mosby says. So to eat, pay, address someone, or pass an object to someone with the left hand is seen as incredibly disrespectful. Even in the United States, there are some things you shouldn’t do with your left hand.

Italy: The chin flick

This is less a single gesture than a motion: flicking your hand outward, palm up, brushing your chin with your fingertips as you do it. In Italy—northern Italy in particular—it’s an aggressively dismissive gesture, meaning (in the most polite terms) that you just don’t care. Though this one doesn’t have a common non-offensive equivalent in America, it is worth noting that a similar gesture does mean “thank you” in American sign language. (You touch your lips with your fingertips before bringing your hand down, rather than flicking your chin.) It’s worth including as one of the better-known international rude gestures among Americans (if only because Matt Le Blanc’s Joey Tribbiani uses it onFriends).

(Video) Common Hand Gestures That Are Rude in Other Countries

Taiwan: Pointing at the moon

According to this Taiwanese superstition, doing this won’t offend an Earthbound person but instead will incur the wrath of the moon goddess. Her punishment for this affront is very specific: She’ll cut your ear off, or at the very least maim it Van Gogh–style. So if you’re admiring a beautiful full moon in Taiwan, endeavor to keep your hands by your sides. Here are some more surprising things that are considered bad luck around the world.

The Philippines: A beckoning motion

While in America, the single-finger beckon is at worst playfully naughty and at best totally innocent, you should definitely avoid it in the Philippines. Nantes explains that there, this gesture is how people summon dogs (or animals in general), so to direct it at a person would be very demeaning. Similarly, “waving your hand’s palm upwards to someone,” also to beckon, is disrespectful in South Korea for the same reason, Nantes says. Beyond just hand gestures, there are many other common American habits that you should be careful not to do in other countries.

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(Video) 10 Obscene Hand Gestures Around the World


10 Common Hand Gestures That Are Rude in Other Countries? ›

Pointing the finger is considered rude in Japanese culture because the person pointing is associated with explicitly calling out the other individual for their wrong behavior or actions. Repeatedly pointing while speaking to another person is considered a sign of extreme frustration or an expression of dissatisfaction.

What gestures are rude in Japan? ›

Pointing the finger is considered rude in Japanese culture because the person pointing is associated with explicitly calling out the other individual for their wrong behavior or actions. Repeatedly pointing while speaking to another person is considered a sign of extreme frustration or an expression of dissatisfaction.

What is the offensive hand gesture in Mexico? ›

Beckoning a person with the palm and fingers pointed up is considered rude. Instead, hold your hand in front of you and keep your palm facing down. Then curl your fingers back towards your body. The “okay” gesture with the thumb and index finger is considered vulgar.

What is the rude British hand gesture? ›

The V sign, when the palm is facing toward the person giving the sign, has long been an insulting gesture in the United Kingdom, and later in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It is frequently used to signify defiance (especially to authority), contempt, or derision.

What are the rude hand gestures in India? ›

Which hand gesture is inappropriate in India? Mostly, using your left hand or legs to do things is considered offensive or inappropriate in India. Hindu people perform Pujas with their right hand. So, whenever you are in a Hindu temple, don't use your left hand to give your offerings in front of the god.

What gestures are considered rude in France? ›

Making a fist with one hand and slapping the top of it with your other hand is considered rude. The American OK sign which is made by forming a circle using the thumb and index finger while the rest of the fingers are straight, can mean “zero” or “worthless”.

What is the rude finger in Korea? ›

Gestures: It is considered rude to make a fist with your hand while placing the thumb between the middle and index finger. Expressions: Koreans may appear quite straight-faced in conversation.

Is yawning rude in Japan? ›

Avoid physical contact. Nose blowing in public is considered very rude, as are yawning, coughing and using toothpicks without covering the mouth.

What are rude gestures in Egypt? ›

It is considered impolite to point the toe, heel or any part of the foot toward another person. Showing the sole of one's shoe is also impolite. Modest dress and presentation is highly valued in Egyptian culture. Greetings often occur before any form of social interaction.

What is the Vietnamese rude finger? ›

As in many places, it's rude to point with your index finger in Vietnam. To be polite, use your pinky finger when you want to point to something. Pointing with an open hand, palm facing down, is even more polite, but it's a bit overboard for most situations.

What hand gesture is offensive in Vietnam? ›

One of those is the crossed-finger gesture. This hand gesture is seen as an action to wish for luck or means “Good luck!” in Western culture. However, in Vietnam, this is referred to as vulgar action and means you are angry and wish to offend others.

What are some gestures in England? ›

There are two finger wagging gestures used in the United Kingdom – side to side to stop people doing something, and back and forth to tell them what to do. For the prohibition gesture, point up just the index finger of your right hand with your palm facing the other person.

What does 2 fingers mean in UK? ›

/ˌtuː ˈfɪŋ.ɡɚz/ in Britain, a sign that is considered rude, made by holding your hand up with your palm facing towards you and your first and second fingers held in a V shape: She drove past and stuck two fingers up at him. Gestures & gesturing. air punch.

What is the two finger swear in the UK? ›

While Americans 'flip the bird' with a single middle finger, the British have traditionally achieved the same with two. The two-fingered salute, or backwards victory or V-sign, made with the middle and index fingers, is said to have originated with English archers at Agincourt in 1415.

What is disrespectful in Indian culture? ›

Do not step over a person sitting or lying on the floor, as it is offensive. Never touch anything with your feet, and don't point the bottom of your feet at religious altars or toward people. To avoid this, sit cross-legged or kneel on the floor while in a temple or holy place.

Is middle finger offensive in India? ›

[3] Indian Courts have recognized the nature of such Act. Delhi District Court,[4] recognized in various matters that showing of Middle finger is an indecent and obscene gesture.

What is considered rude in Paris? ›

It is rude to sit with one's legs spread apart unless in a relaxed context. Rather, sit straight with your legs crossed at the knee or knees together. Feet should not be placed on tables or chairs. If someone is invited to a restaurant or a business function, it is acceptable to arrive at the specific time.

Is smiling rude in France? ›

3 - Don't smile too much

Everybody gets a smile and it is considered rude not to smile. The smile is free and ubiquitous, like air or sunshine. It's expected and polite. Everyone gets a smile but in France, French people perceive the smile differently to Americans.

Is it rude to yawn in France? ›

Spitting in the street is strictly prohibited. Belching in public is very rude. Yawning without covering your mouth, nose or sneezing loudly are also considered very bad behavior.

Is eye contact rude in Korea? ›

In Korea, it is considered rude to look directly into someone's eyes during a conversation, especially if you are being scolded or rebuked by your seniors or elders. In some cultures, making eye contact is a non-verbal part of communication; however, this is not the same in Korean culture.

What does the BTS finger thing mean? ›

This gesture is used to show love or appreciation for someone. This finger heart is recognized for its distinctive Korean hand gesture, which are known as the Korean heart. You've undoubtedly seen a lot of Korean drama and K-pop stars, especially BTS, perform this heart sign a lot.

What does a pinky finger mean in Japan? ›

The raised pinky comes from the Japanese folk belief in "en" (縁), which usually gets translated as "fate" or "karma." But en is a little more complicated than that. It's something like pre-destination, but only applying to the people that you meet in life.

What are rude gestures in China? ›

Do not touch, hug, lock arms, back slap or make any body contact. Clicking fingers or whistling is considered very rude. Never put your feet on a desk or a chair. Never gesture or pass an object with your feet.

What are offensive gestures in Iran? ›

The thumbs-up gesture is considered rude and has the same connotation as raising one's middle finger for traditional Iranians. Pointing: It is considered rude to point your index finger at another person during conversation. Feet: Displaying the soles of one's feet to another person is improper.

What German gestures to avoid? ›

Making hands into two fists, thumbs tucked inside the other fingers and making pounding motion lightly on a surface expresses "good luck." Never use the "okay" sign (index finger and thumb jointed together to make a circle). This is considered a rude gesture. Don't point your index finger to your own head.

Is it OK to cry in Japan? ›

Abstaining from tears is a sign of excellence in Japanese culture, as Japanese society shuns the acceptance of tears. You should not cry in public, and men should not cry at all.

Is it rude to kiss in Japan? ›

Best not greet a Japanese person by kissing or hugging them (unless you know them extremely well). While Westerners often kiss on the cheek by way of greeting, the Japanese are far more comfortable bowing or shaking hands. In addition, public displays of affection are not good manners.

Is blowing your nose rude in Japan? ›

Do not blow your nose in public. Blowing your nose, spitting and other bodily expressions of the mucus-producing kind are not appreciated in Japanese culture. If you must clear your schnoz, consider tucking yourself away from any other observers, or into a bathroom stall.

What is the rude hand gesture in Arab? ›

In some Arab countries, especially Egypt, the middle finger is lowered towards the palm and pointed towards someone, while all other fingers are kept straight. It could be considered the opposite movement of the tradition middle finger gesture, but it serves the same purpose and meaning.

What is the hand gesture in Dubai? ›

That is the three-finger salute made famous by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. The gesture outlines three letters: a W for win, a V for victory, and an L for love.

What is considered rude in Arab culture? ›

Showing public affection is generally considered rude and disrespectful across the Middle East. Although some cultures within the Middle East might be more tolerant than others, it's generally not a good idea to kiss, hug or openly display intimacy.

What is the Italian finger thing? ›

It is meant to express disbelief at what the other person is saying, and/or to ridicule their opinions. It is produced where the tips of all the fingers of one hand are brought together to form an "upward pointing cone", with the hand then being moved up and down either from the wrist or forearm.

What are the Italian devil fingers? ›

The middle and ring fingers are clenched while the thumb, index and and little fingers are extended. Often they're used as a superstitious gesture – the devil's horns are said to drive away curses or bad luck. Inevitably they're also an insult.

What is the Italian finger? ›

The most common Italian hand gesture is known as the “pinched finger” gesture, or as its known in Italian, il gesto del carciofo (lit. the artichoke gesture) or mano a borsa (lit. purse hand). To make this gesture, touch your fingers and thumb together, and shake your hand in front of your face.

What country is thumbs up bad? ›

There are many cultures where a thumbs-up indicates that something is good or well done. In Italy, Greece, Iran, and Iraq, however, this is an insulting gesture.

Is thumbs up offensive in Italy? ›

Thumbs-Up. Avoid using this gesture in: Afghanistan, Iran, parts of Italy, and Greece. The gesture of 'Thumbs-up may look cool on Facebook or USA, but in Afghanistan, Iran, parts of Italy, and Greece, it means "up yours." So, to avoid any awkwardness, next time you must reconsider what you are doing.

Is thumbs up offensive in Brazil? ›

Brazilians use a thumbs up and thumbs down to convey approval or disapproval, respectively. Avoid using the American “okay” sign, which makes an “o” shape with index and thumb touching. This is a rude symbol in Brazil that translates roughly to extending your middle finger in the us.

What are America's non verbal gestures? ›

Here are some of the most common gestures in American culture:
  • Hand Wave.
  • Thumbs-Up.
  • Thumbs-Down.
  • Folded Arms.
  • "Air Quotes"
  • Chin on Hand.
  • Come Here.
  • Raised Hand.

What are the gestures in us? ›

Waving a hand is a way to greet or say hello and goodbye. Nodding your head up and down is a way to say yes. Shaking your head from side to side is a way to no. Putting your hand facing out is a way to say stop.

What do 2 fingers up mean? ›

to express anger at someone in a very rude way by holding up your first two fingers in the shape of a 'V' with your palm facing you. Synonyms and related words. To use a particular gesture to communicate something.

What does 🤟 mean? ›

What does 🤟 I Love You Gesture emoji mean? A universal emoji! Or … is it? The love-you gesture or I love you hand sign emoji is the American Sign Language gesture for “I love you,” showing a hand with a raised index finger and pinky (little) finger and an extended thumb. It comes in a range of skin tones.

What does ✌ mean in England? ›

Who uses ✌️ Victory Hand emoji? The victory hand emoji is most often used to represent “peace” and all the sentiments of unity, harmony, and collective humanity that come with it.

What does a thumbs up mean in Greece? ›

The thumb is extended and facing upwards. It's basically the well-known “thumbs up” gesture, which can also be done with both hands, although in Greece it's usually done with only one hand. This gesture in Greek culture is related to expressing that something is OK or went well.

What is the middle finger swear? ›

The gesture, akin to directing the F-word toward another person, goes back to Greek and Roman times and is often referred to as giving the finger, or the flipping the bird.

What is the pinky finger in swearing? ›

To make a pinky promise, or pinky swear, is a traditional gesture most commonly practiced amongst children involving the locking of the pinkies of two people to signify that a promise has been made. The gesture is taken to signify that the person can break the finger of the one who broke the promise.

What does V fingers mean in England? ›

UK. a sign meaning victory or peace that is made by holding up the first two fingers of one hand in the shape of a V, while the thumb and other fingers are folded down and face out. Compare. peace sign.

What is the difference between 🤘 and 🤟? ›

What is the difference between 🤘 and 🤟? 🤘 = You Rock! or Rock On! 🤟 = Love You! Enter the Latest RockMerch Sweepstakes!

What does holding up 3 fingers sideways mean? ›

Most of all, it has been commonly used for generations to signal “O.K.,” or all is well. But in recent years, it has also been appropriated for a more malign purpose — to signify “white power.” The gesture has become an extremist meme, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Is there a difference symbol? ›

Definition for Difference in Math

The difference in math symbol is minus(-). Minuend is the first number in the subtraction sentence. Subtrahend is the second number in the subtraction sentence and the result that we get is the difference between the two numbers.

What does vs mean in math? ›

"versus" simply means against and is used in the sporting context as well. We say that in some contest "Team A versus team B", meaning team A is against team B. The graph is the same - one variable is plotted against (or versus) another.

What is the difference between 2 or 3? ›

3 -2=1 is the difference between 2 and 3.

What is disrespectful body language? ›

If we raise our chins above the neutral horizontal level, we can be signaling an aggressive move to take charge – or to show disrespect to the other people. Similarly, if you want to avoid threatening someone else, keep your eyes lowered and your head down. The opposite move conveys a threat or an attempt at dominance.

What are defensive hand gestures? ›

A crossed arm is one of the most common and widely used gestures to portray a defensive stance. Crossed arms form a barrier protecting a person and the sensitive parts from an imminent attack. This gesture goes back to our ancient roots where protecting vital organs in a fight is a critical priority.

What does the thumb and little finger out mean? ›

A shaka sign – the unmistakable pinky and thumb salute – is the ultimate symbol of Aloha and local culture in Hawaii. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the Hawaiian Shaka is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush.

What does the 🍑 🍆 mean from a girl? ›

As its fuzzy, cleft appearance looks like a plump rear end, the peach emoji quickly came to stand for buttocks on social media and in text messages, especially a woman's in sexual contexts.

What does 🍑 mean from a boy? ›

🍑 (Peach) Emoji Meanings

You may see a 🍑 at the end of a sexy or flirtatious message to say, “Hey, nice butt,” attached to a caption about fitness and glute gains, or to replace the word “butt.”

What does 🥜 mean in TikTok? ›

TikTok stop taking this down, 🥜 means peanuts. dirtysoy.

What does 3 fingers mean from a girl? ›

It's a gesture of admiration, gratitude and saying goodbye to someone you love. The sign is made by pressing your three middle fingers of your left hand to your lips and then hold them out to the person, or people, that you want to show respect to.

Why do guys hold up 3 fingers? ›

The Shocker is a hand gesture with a sexual connotation. The index, middle, and little fingers are extended, while the ring finger is curled or bent down.

What does 4 fingers sideways up mean? ›

Known as the "silent signal," the trend saw users tucking in their thumbs into their palms, holding four fingers up faced forward, and then closing them into a fist. This is meant to signal that someone is in danger, according to Distractify.


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