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10 Obscene Hand Gestures From Around the World


Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan give the "cutis" (an obscene gesture in India and Pakistan) to the Australian cricket team as he leaves the field during a rain delay in the middle of a test match between the two countries in 2004. Hamish Blair/Getty Images
Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan give the "cutis" (an obscene gesture in India and Pakistan) to the Australian cricket team as he leaves the field during a rain delay in the middle of a test match between the two countries in 2004. Hamish Blair/Getty Images

Worried about your upcoming trip abroad because you don't speak the native language? That's probably the least of your problems. Words comprise but a mere 7 to 35 percent of human communication. The rest comes via body language: gestures, posture, facial expressions, proximity and touch [source: Expats Moving and Relocation Guide]. What you should be thinking about are local hand gestures, especially if you're someone who can't speak without animatedly flinging your hands and arms about.

Many hand gestures that are innocuous or positive in one country can be incredibly insulting or obscene in another. To make things more difficult, a gesture's meaning can also differ within a country, depending upon the locale. It may also have a particular meaning only to one subset of people, such as gays or the elderly, no matter where in the country you are.

You could think keeping your hands in your pockets will solve the problem. But that's considered offensive in places, such as France, Japan and Sweden [source: The New York Times]. Maybe you can keep your arms crossed over your chest? Nope. That's a sign of arrogance in Finland, for one [sources: Forbes].

What to do? Before you finish packing your bags, familiarize yourself with the following 10 hand gestures. Some are considered very positive in the U.S., but all are deemed insulting in at least one spot around the globe.


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