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Contact South West Web Marketing 5 Common Gestures That Might Insult The Locals

Giving a thumbs-up or the OK sign can mean trouble in some parts of the world.

1. Watch Your Fingers in Italy
We were on our way to Rome after days of hiking the Cinque Terre. As we walked through the train looking for our seats, Kati kept complaining about her mosquito bites. People stopped mid-conversation to give us dirty looks, turning and whispering to each other.

As I turned to ask my friend what she thought about about the glares, I caught her scratching a nasty bite on her chin, flicking her fingers in a backwards wave from her neck. I grabbed her hand and shuffled, embarrassed, toward our seats. It all began to make sense.

To a Brit, Kati had just been scratching her chin. To an Italian, she was giving them the equivalent of the middle finger.

2. Don’t Tell Them to Come Hither in Japan.
I tried teaching English in Japan for a couple years, and was trying hard to keep up with Japanese gestures. One day I beckoned for a student with my index finger. Her mouth dropped open and other students stared.

While in Britain the “come hither” finger is a perfectly acceptable way to ask someone to come to you, in Japan it’s a highly offensive gesture. I later learned that this gesture isn’t welcome in most Asian countries, and symbolizes death in Singapore.

The Japanese way to beckon someone looks like an American wave, palm out and fingers waving down.

3. In the Middle East Keep Your Thumbs Down
A friend of mine was once bargaining for trinkets at a street market in Iran, negotiating for a decent price. Although they couldn’t speak the same language, he and the storekeeper were having an agreeable exchange… until one American gesture got him into trouble.

After they agreed on a price, he gave the shopkeeper a thumbs-up. The shopkeeper’s brow crinkled in confusion, then he muttered something in Farsi before turning away. My friend was baffled until a fellow traveler leaned over and told him that his hand gesture indicated that the shopkeeper could stick his price where the sun don’t shine.

4. Order Beer With Words in the United Kingdom.
Along the same lines as the Middle Eastern thumbs-up is the English backwards peace sign (your index and middle finger held up with your palm facing toward you). It means the same thing as giving the middle finger in America, and will get you in trouble with the bartender faster than you can say “bottoms up!”

If the pub is loud and crowded, shout your order for two beers over the din rather than raising two fingers.

5. Is It OK to Use the OK Sign?
Many parts of the world interpret a circle made with the index finger and thumb, with the three remaining fingers up as “OK.” But some places see it a little differently.

In Japan, this gesture stands for “money.” In France it means “zero” or “worthless.” In Venezuela and Turkey, gesturing to someone in this way implies that they are a homosexual. And in Brazil, the OK sign is the same as an Italian chin flick.

Community Connection
If you’re stressed out about going to someplace new and inadvertently insulting the locals, don’t worry too much. No one will expect you to know everything about their culture, and people will laugh off your mistakes.

Cultural Diversity is a tricky subject and the slightest thing can cause great offence. So if your thinking of trading and exporting, then talk to Kwintessential about Cultural Awareness.

 

Tags: Social Media, Social Listening, Marketing Strategies, SEO

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