When travelling or moving overseas, you might think that even if you don’t speak the language, some simple body language gestures will be able to get you by. This might be true at times, but it’s all too easy to make the mistake of inadvertently upsetting another person by making direct eye contact or making an innocent gesture. This is where you will need to be careful!
Knowing what certain gestures and body language means in foreign countries can mean the difference between making new friends or suffering anger and abuse. We have prepared some handy tips to ensure you are making new friends and positive experiences wherever in the world you are travelling or living!
Keep these 5 top gestures in mind when using them in a foreign country:
1. The OK. What do you think this sign means?
This is where it gets a bit tricky, as this hand symbol means a number of things. In Australia, America and many other western countries it means good, or all right. While in Japan it means money and when travelling through France and using the gesture it will mean zero. Interestingly, in Brazil it actually means the ‘unmentionable orifice’.
2. The Corna.
This is a tricky one too as the corna symbol can be interpreted differently depending on where you are in the world. It can mean both a heavy metal symbol and a way to ward off bad luck and evil spirits. It even means goat in sign language.
3. Poking out your tongue.
When stepping off the plane into Tibet for the first time you might be shocked to find a Tibetan native poking their tongue out at you. But don’t be alarmed, it’s a good thing! In some parts of Tibet, sticking your tongue out is a friendly greeting, so why not do it back!
4. The thumbs up.
Let’s say you are eating dinner in the Middle East, and your waiter asks how you like your food. Because your mouth is full, so you give him a thumbs up to let
him know it’s a good meal. But stop, although a thumbs up gesture means ‘all right’ or ‘good’ in the Australia and many western countries, in some parts of the Middle East, it means you want to have sexual relations with the person you’re giving the thumbs up to. It’s probably best to think twice before giving the thumbs up we think!
5. Eye Contact
Whether your eye contact is accepted positively or negatively will really depend on where you are in the world. For us in Australia, making eye contact is expected and welcomed.
Not making eye contact in Australia might make you appear rude. Brazilians go one step further; they look very long in the eyes. They see the eyes as mirrors of the soul and see this as a way to get to know you better. In many African countries however, it is extremely rude and disrespectful to make eye contact with older people or authorities and in Asian countries, people are not used to making eye contact. As you can see there is a world of difference here and something to be aware of when as an expat or traveler.
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