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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Silent Language of Gestures

What is okay with you might not be all right in other countries

The world is getting smaller as travel to other countries becomes easier and faster. People from different nations find common grounds through social networking and cultural exchanges. Communication in almost all forms is available in most countries. And however miniscule the help of free online language translators give, these are oftentimes enough for simple conversations among people who speak different languages. 

But there is still a language that people cannot hear, a language that is more powerful, the silent language of gestures that could be common to most people of one culture but may be interpreted differently by people from another culture. Just be aware that some commonplace gestures in your country could be misinterpreted by people from another country and it will do you good to learn of a few of these.

The Okay Sign
Okay sign

The okay sign is quite commonly used and accepted. However, when you are in Germany, Brazil, Turkey and Greece, beware because this sign for them is quite vulgar. Giving them that okay sign tells them that they resemble the hole in your bottom and as such is a homosexual. In Kuwait, that simple sign is interpreted as you giving them the evil eye.

Pointing 
Wherever you go, it is best to be safe and avoid pointing your finger (usually the index) finger at something or someone. The best thing to do is to point with an open hand, with the fingers close together.

Eating with the hands
There are times when it is easier to eat something with your hands. If you are in India or in any Muslim country, be mindful not use your left hand for eating because it is considered dirty. And avoid using your left hand when talking and gesturing or when shaking hands in these parts of the world. In Senegal, a wrist or the left hand would be offered in a handshake when the person’s right hand is dirty or wet.

Holding hands
Holding hands
In Australia, young boys holding hands are not frowned upon, but when grown men hold hands, it means they are partners. There is no malice when you see two male persons arm in arm or holding hands in Muslim and African countries as well as in India.

Thumbs up
Thumbs uo
In the United States, the thumbs-up is a common hand signal, indicating that you’ve done something good. But in Greece, large parts of Latin America, West Africa, areas south of Italy, in Russia and Sardinia, it is the same as being given the middle finger, which could land you in big trouble. And it is also considered the biggest insult that you could give someone from the Middle East.

The V-sign
V-sign
Americans translate the V-sign to victory or love and peace, whether the palm faces inwards or outwards. In Great Britain, Ireland, News Zealand and Australia though giving the V-sign with the palm facing outwards is taken as an insult. Likewise it is a rude sign in Italy.

So next time you are in another country be aware, sensitive and observant so you’d understand other cultures better. As the globe shrinks through communication and travel, it is quite fitting that each person understands, learns and respects other cultures’ silent language.

By: Bernadine B. Racoma
Editor
, Day Translations, Inc.
“The most accurate translations on the planet!”

Photo Credits:
- okay sign
- holding hands
- thumbs up
- V-sign



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