From thumbs up to a fist pump, we often think using our hands to communicate helps break language barriers when traveling the world. But sometimes those gestures get lost in translation, and depending on where you are, mean the exact opposite of what you’re trying to say. You may be inclined to say, “rock ‘n’ roll!” with a set of bullhorns at a gig in Spain, but you’re actually saying someone’s wife is sleeping around. Don’t do that. Sleep with someone else's wife, or make that gesture.
Rather than chancing it next time you’re abroad, here’s a list of common gesticulations to avoid.
Nashville Absinthe Cocktails & the Hottest Chicken (Literally)
Offended countries: UK and Australia What you think it means: "Peace, man,” or “I’ll take two beers.” What it really means: The easy-going crowd in Oz may not understand your attempt to keep the peace, and it certainly won’t go over well when you’re ordering a couple of pints in the UK, because you’re basically giving them the finger. Throwing out a peace sign with your palm facing inward is asking for trouble. Laces out, Dan.
Offended countries: Afghanistan, Iran, and parts of Italy and Greece What you think it means: “All good!” What it really means: Thumbs up is sign of approval in the US and even eventually to Zangief, but it actually translates to “up yours” in other places around the world. Just smile instead.
Offended country: Pakistan What you think it means: “Solidarity, bro,” or to gesticulate how much you’re really enjoying this Avicii jam. What it really means: In Pakistan, a closed fist is the equivalent of an American giving the middle finger. Keep your fist-pumping to a minimum, please, lest you repeatedly want to tell someone to F-off.
Offended countries: Singapore, Japan, and The Philippines What you think it means: “Get over here!” What it really means: Unless you’re the grim reaper or Scorpion (what's with the '90s video game references?), use your words rather than your hands to call someone over in Singapore and Japan. The move symbolizes death. In The Philippines however, it’s reserved to call over dogs, dawg. Don't hound your friends.
Offended countries: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, and Colombia What you think it means: “Rock ’n’ roll,” or if you’re part of that University of Texas football culture, “Hook ‘em Horns!” What it really means: Unless you’re notifying your buddy that he’s a cuckold, avoid using devil horns in any of these countries. The symbol indicates “adulteress.” If you don't know what "cuckold" or "adulteress" mean... well, good on you for being an innocent.
Offended country: Greece What you think it means: “Talk to the hand,” if you’re from 1996. In other instances, “Stop!” What it really means: Greece traces this symbol back to the Byzantine era, when street onlookers could heckle criminals with excrement and charcoal using open palms. Unless you’re throwing poop, palms down.
A dozen roses
Offended countries: Russia What you think it means: “I’m a good boyfriend.” What it actually means: In Russia, it’s taboo to give someone an even number of flowers, unless it’s for a funeral. So if you’re trying to impress a Russian girl, remember a dozen is an insult, whereas a baker's dozen increases your chance of getting lucky -- even though 13's usually considered unlucky, and donuts are better than roses.
Offended country: Vietnam What you think it means: “God, I hope this is chicken.” What it really means: While you may be crossing your fingers about what kind of “mystery meat” is in your Vietnamese cuisine, be careful about flashing it to locals. Finger crossing is a gesture used to represent female genitals. GET IT? Good, because you're not getting further explanation.
Offended country: Japan What you think it means: “Here’s my business card. I’m very important.” What it really means: Giving with one hand is considered dismissive and disrespectful. Next time you’re in Japan, make sure you use both hands to present your very important business card, or whatever you’re handing off. Be sure to be extra creepy about it, too.
Offended countries: Thailand, Laos, and Sri Lanka What you think it means: “Good job.” What it actually means: Head-patting is kinda weird for adults to do to anyone but kids, but it's extra-bad in parts of Asia like Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Laos. Buddhists consider the head the most sacred part of the body, and head-patting is perceived as invasive. And let’s be honest, it’s just overall kind of patronizing. Remember how much of a d-bag Gerald Lambeau looked like when he did it in Good Will Hunting?
Index finger-thumb form a circle "OK"
Offended countries: France, Venezuela, Turkey and Brazil What you think it means: “A-OK, pal.” What it really means: You might want to let people know you’re alright by using the common symbol for “OK” with your forefinger and thumb, but in France, you’re really just saying you or someone else is worthless (unless you are worthless). In Venezuela and Brazil, swap it out to represent, um, a concealed body part. OK, it's your butt. It’s also considered an insult toward gay people in places like Turkey. Basically, it means lots of mean things to lots of different people. Not OK, dude. Not OK.