Even the most seasoned traveler cannot possibly know every local custom and appropriate behaviour whilst engaging with the natives. What might be acceptable in one country may be offensive in another! And we certainly don’t want you insulting someone’s wife, with a playful western hand gesture. So too avoid getting into these ugly or embarrassing situations, we have compiled a list of gestures that can be very useful to know, whilst communicating abroad.
1) In Greek cultures, it is insulting to layout out the palms of your hands, as well as raising a palm up to a person’s face. Avoid gesturing or establishing points with your palms faced outwards.
2) In Thailand and other parts of Asia, the head is known as a sacred part of the body. You would be wise to avoid passing things over people’s heads and certainly do not pat anyone’s head [even though a positive gesture in the UK]
3) In Bulgaria and a few areas of Eastern Europe, nodding your head up and down means NO, whilst side to side means YES. A tricky gesture to get used to!
4) In some Muslim countries, it is extremely inappropriate to make eye contact with the opposite sex and unacceptable to touch or greet them.
5) You may be an all time rocker visiting the Mediterranean, but clenching your fist with the second and fifth finger faced upwards signals to the Spanish, Italians and Greeks that your wife is having an affair!
6) In Brazil, you will want to avoid giving the a-ok sign (commonly expressed where the thumb and finger next to it meet in an “O”), as it is an highly offensive sign rather than a reassuring one!
7) When seated in Spain, it is the social norm for men to cross their legs as opposed to the women. It is even expressed as an unfeminine gesture for a woman to use.
8) In French restaurants, it would be wise not to eat your sandwich with your hands, as the natives will use their knives and forks.
9) In certain areas of The Middle East, West Africa, South America, Iran and Sardinia, do not give anyone a friendly thumbs up – it is actually a deep insult to them! The most straight forward interpretation of this sign is – “Up yours, mate!”