Every country has their own unique way of expressing themselves with derogatory hand gestures, much the way we do with our one finger salute. By not knowing these gestures travelers to other parts of the world could find themselves inadvertently insulting someone by suggesting they go have an intimate romp with a pig, or by placing a curse on the next five generations of the person’s family.
Though these gestures are unknown to us they are equally as insulting as raising a middle finger, or perhaps even more so. And unless the person who was mistakenly insulted stops to consider the naivety of the common tourist, an innocent scratching of the forehead or an improperly executed friendly wave could have you digging out your phrase book to apologize in light of being verbally accosted, or far worse.
You could just keep your hands in your pockets, or you could learn what’s offensive to the citizens of wherever you’re traveling to. I suggest the latter. Here are some gestures you would be well advised to not make.
1 You Have 5 Fathers – Arab Countries
Meaning dear old mom Got Around, the Five Fathers gesture is considered the very worst of insults in Arab countries. This inflammatory hand sign could get you deported for inciting a riot if you live that long. Especially in Saudi Arabia where it’s a death wish.
Even in a country accused of questionable values and ethics, moms are more sacred than cows. To question the identity of someone’s father is to suggest their DNA is a scrambled conglomeration of multiple men. The problem with being in Saudi Arabia is once the rest of the crowd sees it’s a tourist being brutally pounded into the sand, especially an American one, they all want a piece of the action. After all. You deserve it. It was your fault.
Not to worry. This gesture would be difficult to accidentally make so a person would have to be explosively mad, or an idiot, to make it. Here’s how it’s done.
Extend your left index finger. Now extend all four fingers of your right hand and squeeze them together. Now touch your right hand with your left finger as if pointing to them.
2 Can Your Sister Come Out and Play? – Greece, Pakistan
In Greece and Pakistan be careful how you wave. Their practice of waving is to point their palm towards their own face and move their fingers up and down much the way a young child does. They do this for a very good reason.
Called the Moutza, this is probably the oldest derogatory gesture in the world that is still being used. It originated in the Byzantine era when criminals were chained to donkeys on the streets as a form of embarrassment. Town folk would laugh at them as they smeared feces in their faces.
Today the gesture has several meanings. One meaning is as if to say, “I rub s*** in your face.” Another meaning is it curses a person with five years of bad luck on them and their family. Perhaps the worst connotation is meaning the person is going to perform five sexual acts on the other persons’ sister.
This gesture is too easy to make so be careful. Simply hold up your right hand with your fingers extended as if to wave, and separate them. Some people refer to this as ‘giving five.’
3 Your Wife is Screwing Around – Brazil, Italy, The Baltics, Columbia, Portugal, Spain
It’s a very delicate issue to deal with when someone finds out their friend’s wife is being unfaithful. There are just so many ways to let them know. You can tell them about it, or if you are in one the countries recognizing a certain hand gesture, you can silently let them know. But if a total stranger upsets someone and an insult is duly called for, they can give them the very same hand sign.
The gesture dates back 2500 years and is called the Corna. It is the sign of the bull and it’s very similar to the sign we sometimes give at rock concerts or sporting events, only the hand faces the opposite direction.
Extend your index and pinky keeping the other fingers pointing down to make bullhorns. Now, point the inside of your hand towards your face. That’s all there is to it.
4 Screw You and Your Entire Family – India, Pakistan
If someone really wants to insult someone in India or Pakistan and they want to include the persons entire family in the deal, a gesture known as the Cutis will do the job nicely. The origins of this particularly offensive gesture are unknown, but nonetheless, things will heat up when it’s given. It’s taken very seriously.
Make a fist and bring your thumb towards your mouth as though you are going to suck it. Instead, flick your thumb off of your front teeth. At the same time. in an infuriated voice, spit out the word “cutta!” The only viable interpretation for this is something similar to “screw you.” This is not something you want to do unless you are fully prepared to fight to the finish.
5 I Got Your Nose – Turkey, Slavic Countries, Japan, Korea
If you have ever played “I got your nose” with a very young child and sent them screaming in terror, you already know how to make this one by making a fist and sticking your thumb between your index and middle finger so it sticks out like a nose.
Don’t play the game with the cute little Japanese kid eating a burger and fries at McDonald’s in Tokyo, especially if it’s a girl. You might literally get slammed to the mat by the child’s black-belt father. The sign represents a male penis penetrating a female vagina. Once you are beaten to a pulp the police will arrest you for being a pedophile.
There you have it. Wherever your travels may take you, it’s always a good idea to brush up on a countries customs, habits, and without a doubt, anything they may find offensive. Happy Trails.