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Rude Hand Gestures Around The World Infographic


by Adriane Hines



Welcome to the fascinating world of rude hand gestures! Humans have been using gestures to convey messages since the dawn of time. From a friendly wave to a thumbs-up sign, these hand gestures have become ingrained in our everyday communication. However, there are also gestures that can be considered offensive or rude in different cultures around the world.


Understanding the nuances of these gestures is not only interesting, but it can also help prevent misunderstandings and cultural faux pas when traveling abroad. In this article, we will explore some of the most bizarre and offensive hand gestures from various regions of the world. So, get ready to expand your knowledge of global communication and dive into the weird and amazing world of rude hand gestures!


Before we dive in, it’s important to note that while these gestures may be considered rude in certain cultures, they are not necessarily universally offensive. So, it’s crucial to always research and respect the local customs and traditions of the countries you visit. With that said, let’s embark on a journey around the world and uncover some of the most surprising and outrageous hand gestures!


North America

When it comes to rude hand gestures, North America is not short on a few notable ones. One such gesture is the middle finger, commonly referred to as “flipping the bird.” This gesture involves extending the middle finger while keeping the remaining fingers folded. Displaying this gesture is a clear sign of anger, disrespect, or frustration and is considered highly offensive in North American culture.


Another notable gesture in North America is the “OK” sign, formed by joining the index finger and thumb in a circle while extending the other three fingers. While this gesture may seem innocent and harmless in many parts of the world, it can carry a negative connotation in some North American contexts. In certain situations or regions, such as parts of the United States, the “OK” sign can be interpreted as a symbol of white supremacy, so it’s important to be cautious when using it.


Lastly, there is the “talk to the hand” gesture, which involves raising the palm of the hand towards someone, with fingers splayed outwards, and saying “Talk to the hand” as a dismissive gesture. Though more of a slang phrase and gesture, it is used to express a lack of interest in listening to someone or to stop them from speaking further.


While these gestures may be widely known in North America, it’s crucial to remember that their meanings and interpretations can vary across regions and individuals. It’s always best to exercise caution and respect the cultural norms of the specific area you are in to avoid any unintended offense or misunderstanding.



Europe, with its diverse cultures and languages, is home to a variety of fascinating and sometimes peculiar hand gestures. One widely recognized gesture in Europe is the “V sign” or “peace sign.” Formed by extending the index and middle fingers while keeping the others folded, this gesture is often associated with peace and victory. However, in certain countries like the United Kingdom, if the palm is facing inward, it can be interpreted as an offensive gesture similar to giving the middle finger.


In Greece and parts of Italy, there is a hand gesture known as the “fig,” which involves making a fist with the thumb peeping out between the index and middle fingers. This gesture is believed to have origins dating back to ancient Greece and is considered a symbol to ward off evil or bad luck. However, in some contexts, it can be seen as an obscene gesture, so it’s best to avoid using it unless you are well-versed in local customs.


Traveling further east, we encounter the “Corna” gesture, commonly found in Italy and neighboring regions. This gesture involves extending the index and little fingers while keeping the others folded, resembling a bull’s horns. It is often used to ward off evil or as a symbol of good luck. However, if the gesture is reversed, with the palm facing inward, it becomes a highly offensive gesture implying that the recipient’s spouse is cheating on them.


Europe is a continent with a rich tapestry of cultures, and it’s important to be aware of the nuances of local customs and gestures when traveling throughout the region. What may be innocent in one country could be seen as offensive in another. So, be sure to do your research beforehand and always approach local customs with respect and sensitivity.



Asia, with its vibrant cultures and diverse traditions, is a treasure trove of unique and sometimes perplexing hand gestures. In Japan, the “beckoning gesture” is a common non-verbal communication used to call someone over. It involves facing the palm downward and repeatedly folding the fingers inward. However, it’s important to note that using this gesture with the palm facing upward is considered rude and is reminiscent of summoning a dog.


In Thailand and several other Southeast Asian countries, the “wai” gesture is a common form of greeting and showing respect. It involves pressing the palms together at chest level, with fingers extended upward. The height at which the hands are held and the degree of bowing the upper body indicates the level of respect. It’s considered polite to return the gesture if someone offers a wai to you.


China is home to several unique hand gestures, one of which is the “chopsticks gesture.” It involves forming a “V” shape by curling the index and middle fingers while extending the others. This gesture is commonly used in photos to represent a “peace” or “V” for victory. However, it’s important to note that in some Asian cultures, this gesture can also symbolize money or a request for payment. So, use it with caution and be mindful of the context.


In India, the “namaste” gesture is a traditional and respectful way of greeting. It involves bringing the palms together in front of the chest, with fingers extended upward. This gesture is accompanied by a slight bow of the head. The word “namaste” itself translates to “I bow to you” and is accompanied by a sense of reverence and humility.


Asia is a continent with a rich tapestry of cultures and customs. When visiting different countries in Asia, it’s essential to be mindful of local hand gestures and their meanings. What may be seen as innocuous or friendly in one culture could be offensive or inappropriate in another. Take the time to learn about local customs and be respectful in your interactions to ensure a positive and culturally sensitive experience.


Middle East

The Middle East is a region steeped in ancient traditions and cultural nuances, and hand gestures play a significant role in communication. In many Middle Eastern countries, the left hand is considered unclean, so it’s important to use the right hand for greetings, gestures, and eating.


One distinctive gesture in the Middle East is the “Arabic insult gesture,” also known as the “five.” It involves raising the hand, palm facing outward, and extending the five fingers. This gesture is considered incredibly offensive and is used to show extreme disrespect or contempt towards someone.


Another commonly seen gesture in the Middle East is the “thumbs-up” sign. While this gesture is generally seen as positive and encouraging in Western cultures, in some Middle Eastern countries, it can be interpreted as offensive. It is always best to be aware of the local interpretation of this gesture and consider avoiding it if uncertain.


In Islamic cultures, the “Tawhid” gesture is widely recognized. It involves extending the index finger upward, symbolizing the oneness and unity of God. This gesture is often used during prayers and religious ceremonies, representing the belief in the monotheistic nature of Islam.


The “shaking hands” gesture is a common form of greeting in the Middle East. However, it is important to note that men typically greet each other with a firm handshake, while women may use a lighter and gentler handshake or opt for a respectful nod instead. It’s always best to follow the lead of locals and respect cultural norms when greeting others.


As with any region, it’s crucial to approach hand gestures in the Middle East with cultural sensitivity and respect. Understanding the significance and appropriateness of certain gestures can help ensure smooth and respectful interactions with the locals.



Africa, with its diverse cultures and rich traditions, boasts a wide array of unique and intriguing hand gestures. In many African countries, hand gestures play an integral role in communication, conveying messages and emotions in a distinct and meaningful way.


One famous hand gesture in Africa is the “thumbs-up” sign, which is generally seen as a positive and encouraging gesture. It symbolizes approval, agreement, or success. However, it’s essential to be aware of local customs and traditions, as the interpretation of this gesture can vary across different countries and communities.


In some parts of Africa, particularly in West Africa, the “gun gesture” is used as a playful or teasing gesture among friends. This gesture involves extending the index finger forward, mimicking the shape of a gun. It is important to note that while it may be harmless between friends, it is essential to be cautious and use this gesture appropriately, as it can be misconstrued or seen as threatening in certain contexts.


A notable hand gesture in South Africa is the “fist bump,” also known as the “tjoekie.” This gesture involves making a fist and gently tapping knuckles with another person as a sign of greeting, respect, or celebration. It is a popular alternative to a handshake or a high-five gesture.

It’s crucial to recognize that Africa is an incredibly vast continent with a myriad of cultures and traditions. Hand gestures can differ greatly between countries and even within regions. When visiting different African countries, taking the time to familiarize yourself with local customs and being respectful in your interactions will go a long way in fostering positive connections and cultural understanding.


South America

South America, with its vibrant and lively cultures, is home to a variety of unique hand gestures that reflect the region’s rich heritage and customs. These gestures often carry deep cultural meanings and can enhance communication in South American communities.


One commonly recognized hand gesture in South America is the “ok” sign. This gesture, formed by joining the thumb and index finger in a circle while extending the other fingers, is generally used to signify that something is good or okay. However, in some South American countries like Brazil and Argentina, this gesture can be interpreted as offensive or vulgar. It’s best to be cautious and consider the local context when using this gesture.


An iconic hand gesture in South America is the “Corna” gesture, also known as the “cuckold gesture.” This gesture involves extending the pinky and index fingers while keeping the other fingers folded. It is commonly used to suggest that someone’s partner is being unfaithful. However, it’s important to note that the interpretation of this gesture can vary across different countries and even within regions of South America.


In some South American countries, such as Brazil and Colombia, the “thumbs up” gesture is equivalent to giving the middle finger in Western cultures. It is seen as a highly offensive and vulgar gesture, so it is best to avoid using it in these regions to prevent any misunderstandings or unintended offense.


It’s important to recognize that South America is a diverse continent with numerous countries, each having its own unique customs and traditions. When traveling through South America, it’s important to be aware of the specific hand gestures that are considered appropriate and respectful in each country or region. Respecting local customs and being mindful of cultural sensitivities will help ensure positive interactions and foster a deeper appreciation for the diverse cultures of South America.



Oceania, with its stunning islands and diverse indigenous cultures, encompasses a fascinating range of hand gestures, each with its own significance and meaning. These gestures are deeply rooted in the customs and traditions of the region, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of Oceania.


In several countries across Oceania, the “hongi” gesture holds great cultural significance. This Maori gesture from New Zealand involves pressing one’s nose and forehead against another person’s nose and forehead as a form of greeting. It signifies the exchange of breath and the joining of two spirits in a gesture of unity, respect, and solidarity.


The “shaka” gesture, originating from Hawaii, has become synonymous with Oceania’s laid-back and surf culture. This gesture involves extending the thumb and pinky finger while curling the other fingers inwards, resembling a wave. The shaka sign is used to express aloha spirit, good vibes, and as a friendly greeting or farewell.


In Papua New Guinea and parts of Micronesia, the “pointing with lips” gesture is commonly used. Instead of using the finger, locals indicate directions or objects by subtly puckering their lips in the desired direction. This gesture is a cultural norm and is seen as a polite way of non-verbally pointing something out.


The “thumbs up” gesture is generally understood across Oceania as a symbol of approval, agreement, or satisfaction. However, it’s important to note that cultural variations do exist, and it’s always best to be aware of the specific cultural context in which the gesture is being used.


Oceania is a region with a deep respect for its indigenous cultures and traditions. When visiting different countries in Oceania, it’s important to approach hand gestures with cultural sensitivity and respect. Taking the time to learn and understand the meaning and appropriateness of certain gestures will help to foster positive interactions and bridge cultural gaps.



Exploring the world of rude hand gestures has taken us on a journey across continents, revealing a tapestry of cultural diversity and fascinating customs. From the middle finger in North America to the “V sign” in Europe, and the “hongi” in Oceania, each gesture carries its own meanings and interpretations.


One common thread throughout our exploration is the importance of cultural sensitivity and respect. What may be considered offensive in one culture could be a harmless gesture in another. It’s crucial to research and understand the local customs and traditions of the countries we visit to avoid cultural misunderstandings and unintentional offense.


While it’s interesting to learn about these curious hand gestures, it’s essential to remember that they represent only a small part of the rich tapestry of global communication. Respectful and open-minded engagement with people from different cultures and backgrounds is key to fostering understanding and appreciation for our diverse world.


So, whether we’re traveling, interacting with individuals from different cultures, or simply expanding our knowledge, let’s approach the fascinating world of hand gestures with curiosity and respect. Through learning and understanding, we can bridge cultural gaps, promote harmony, and celebrate the weird and amazing diversity of human communication.