March 30th, 2011
10:36 AM ET

Last Look: Hand signals that could land you in hot water

Before you take off on your next vacation, you might want to brush up on your sign language. You don't want to wind up insulting a cab driver you're trying to flag down in the pouring rain or anger the waiter bringing you your coffee.

So as you pack up your Lonely Planet guide, you might want to look at our book of the week: Don't Get Me Wrong: The Global Gestures Guide. It will show you how everyday gestures are interpreted in countries all over the world.  Hopefully it will keep you out of trouble during your travels.

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Topics: Book of the Week • Culture • Global • GPS Show • Last Look

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. NGS

    The first time Churchill made the "V" sign, he got it backwards.
    Them someone told him it was like giving an Aussie the finger.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • stinky

      One time i farted in a meican cab, he didnt like it to much, I blamed it on the tacos

      April 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Reply
      • Wenleli

        Very adult.

        April 3, 2011 at 7:37 am |
      • Agent_C

        In a Mexican cab, who would know the difference?

        April 3, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Bowman

      That someone was probably not an Englishman. Or if he was ,he was someone who had a limited knowledge of English history. During the time of the bowman it was his greatest fear, if captured by his enemy, to have the two fingers used to pull his bow, cut off. Thus when about to do combat with his enemy he would raise his hand ( giving what you call a backwards “V” to taunt his enemy. But then again, a recent pol indicated that close to 30 percent believed Sherlock Holmes was a real man.

      April 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Reply
      • Subin

        Really, 100% of teaparty members still believe Sarah palin is the smartest republican....

        April 3, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Pete Samson

      When you ask for TWO of anything anywhere in Europe, you show it as in the video, not the V sign, and especially not in Serbia, where V means U for Croatian Ustashe. Similarly Serbs have a Three Finger salute, which you just don't wave around in Croatia, for any reason. And as far as Bush Horn sign, that is no Texas Longorns. That is a sign you give when you want to curse someone.

      April 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  2. stinky


    April 1, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  3. stinky

    thats almost a pooh hiku

    April 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Reply
  4. Cam

    There seem to be no end of angry, hateful, mean gestures. Why don't we have ones for "Oops, I'm sorry," or "please," or "Thank you." I believe those universal gestures would greatly reduce road rage. Just a thought . . .

    April 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • True

      That's the best thing I've read all day. But it's early...

      April 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • BB

      We already have that, first make a fist, then stretch out your middle finger, outwart side facing to the person you want to, thank. beg or apologize to and voila your done....

      April 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Reply
    • Popeye

      There is! And MORE! Its called international sign language.

      April 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Reply
    • AlreadyInUse

      You know the way you rub your hands in winter to warm them up.... put your hand together like that but don't rub - that gesture is used in part of India and Pakistan to apologize or simply show humility (e.g., when praised.)

      April 2, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Reply
      • urs truly

        dude we do the same thing here to show respect towards GOD! you know that thing called Praying! 😉

        April 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  5. donna ryan

    obvious you have never been to to the movies in Mexico. Really really stinky!!

    April 1, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • Stuart

      I work at a multiplex part-time. Smelling seats is a hobby. It is great on date night after the 8 showing. Ahhh

      April 2, 2011 at 6:30 am | Reply
  6. Codifex

    All this political correctness is making me ill.

    April 2, 2011 at 4:48 am | Reply
  7. Tony

    If the Italians don't like the gestures they use in Texas, they can stay in Italy.

    April 2, 2011 at 8:16 am | Reply
    • Brian

      Umm, they were in Italy. Bush was in Italy, too. It's really not that hard to understand the spoken word.

      April 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Reply
      • urs truly

        no duh, hes trying to say that cant everybody be offended be everything Obviously somebody that is not from a particular region of the world is going to know what all offends each person. But the gesture was clearly for another purpose and if it was taken the wrong way then o well u cant please everybody

        April 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
      • Yabba

        urs truly. Learn how to compose English sentences before you post. You must be from Texas.

        April 3, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Brad

      Yep, It's a wonder European's hate Americans. Maybe the bad attitudes?

      April 4, 2011 at 7:51 am | Reply
      • mike

        i'm pretty sure the reason europeans hate americans is a bit more complex than that. of course, personally, i've never met someone who disliked me because i was american. and i've met my fair share of europeans...

        April 4, 2011 at 8:54 am |
      • Belky

        Europeans smell like cabbage anyway, who cares if they hate Americans. Besides, I think Americans like being hated anyway, its kind of a kinky fetish thing for them, turns ‘em on you know.

        April 6, 2011 at 3:53 am |
  8. bvilleyellowdog

    No joke this can be a real problem. When I am traveling in far away pieces i make it my business to know a few essential sign. An otherwise I keep my hands down. I see several commenters who should just stay home.

    April 2, 2011 at 8:29 am | Reply
    • Bunny

      I'm with you, bvilleyellowdog! It's easy to get in trouble in the US if you don't know your way around and make a wrong turn. If you can do this in your own country, where you know the language and the customs, just imagine what can happen in a foreign country if you make an insulting gesture.

      I've been all over the world, speak several languages and know a lot about different cultures. No matter where I go, the locals tend to treat me like a friend and often make it a point to tell me their personal horror stories about "ugly Americans", and always wonder why I'm so different from "those people". I make it a point to tell them that "those people" are the exceptions, and that most of us are really like me: friendly, respectful and interested in other people and cultures. I only hope that they don't read boards like this or they'll think I lied.

      April 2, 2011 at 10:42 am | Reply
      • AlreadyInUse

        but you did lie.

        April 2, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  9. Great Observer

    There is something wrong with the hands in the image. The fingers are way too long.

    April 2, 2011 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • TrailerNegra

      You're RIGHT! I didn't notice it until you said something, but those fingers are FREAKISHLY long!!!!!

      April 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • BB

      and the index finger has four fingerbones, I think this book is written by aliens for aliens...

      April 2, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • AlreadyInUse

      Stop it... it wasn't meant to be erotic.

      April 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  10. Joe Schmoe

    Slow news day, huh?

    April 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  11. Waffle Iron

    Two in the pink, one in the stink is a pretty universal hand gesture.

    April 2, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Reply
  12. Pilzer p pilchuck

    Uh guys.... hello? Does this entail a news article or the selling of an book. Of course certain gestures in backwards USA mean other things elsewhere in the world. We use toilet paper. duh. Besides if they don't understand our gestures that makes them wrong, am I not right? We are the greatest country in the world, therefore if they don't understand us well... Scr#w them.
    yep I'm redneck thank you very much.

    April 4, 2011 at 3:47 am | Reply
    • AC

      Yep, we could tell.

      April 4, 2011 at 9:49 am | Reply
  13. Talravan

    A quick fix for this for immigrants in America:
    Why don't immigrants learn what these hand signs mean in America before getting all upset over our more complimentary signs. It's kinda like learning English before immigrating to an English speaking country, only far easier.

    April 4, 2011 at 10:07 am | Reply
  14. GoRobGo

    So this "story" is just an ad for a book?

    April 4, 2011 at 11:04 am | Reply
  15. stinky

    yes a book about finger banging and seat sniffing

    April 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  16. pink taco

    If you ate my pink taco, ur farts wouldnt smell bad

    April 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  17. stinky

    No thanx i dont like fish

    April 4, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  18. taco fan

    He said your vagina smells like fish @Pink taco

    April 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  19. pink taco

    Its cause i hide cans of sardines up there, its dark and warm

    April 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  20. stinky

    puking be right back

    April 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  21. pink taco

    i like it in the butt to

    April 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  22. Jeffrey

    For your information, in China as it is in Taiwan, the thumb & index sign is 7 and not 8. Need to straighten that !

    December 25, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Reply

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