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10 Taboo Gestures around the World

Monday, March 18th, 2013

See below for 10 gestures to avoid whilst on your travels!

taboo gestures(photo by nate steiner)

1. In parts of Asia, and certainly in Thailand, it is taboo to pat someone on the head. The head is deemed sacred and it is best to avoid passing things over people’s heads too.

2. Greek people never show their palms to you. There is only one thing that can be deemed more insulting than holding your palm up to someone, and that is raising both at the same time! Be careful if you ever need to use your hand to gesture for anything that your palm is facing your body.

3. In the UK it is important to be very careful when using the two-fingered gesture made so famous by Winston Churchill. If you have the two fingers and the palm facing inwards then it is an insult, in much the same way as the raised middle finger is in most parts of the world.

4. The thumbs up sign which means “great” in the UK is deeply offensive to people in the Middle East, West Africa and South America. In parts of Europe it has other meanings too, so probably a gesture best avoided!

5. The A-OK sign where the thumb and finger next to it meet in an “O” can cause grave offence in Brazil and should be avoided at all costs.

6. Eating with your left hand and giving gifts with your left hand is considered offensive in most countries.

7. It is taboo in many Muslim countries to make eye contact with the opposite sex, let alone shake hands or touch in any way.

8. In the Philippines a curled index finger in a beckoning motion is regarded as a gesture so low one would only use it on dogs.

9. Flicking your teeth with your thumb (while saying “cutta”) is deeply offensive and is the same as the ubiquitous one fingered sign which will cause offence everywhere.

10. A clenched fist with the second and fifth fingers up is a favourite gesture amongst rock stars but to the Greeks, Italians, Spanish and others it means that your wife is sleeping with someone else!

Hotels in Athens:

Soho Hotel, Athens, GreeceSoho Hotel
Average Price: 18.9€
Average Rating: 8

Hotel Apartments Zina, Athens, GreeceHotel Apartments Zina
Average Price: 47€
Average Rating: 10

Katerina Hotel, Athens, GreeceHotel Katerina
Average Price: €50
Average Rating: 9.3

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer louise

Louise Vinciguerra is a fantastic joke teller, has a million and one hobbies and enjoys matching her fonts with her moods. This Brooklyn, NY native dirties her hands in content on weekdays and as devout nature lover, dirties them in soil on the weekends. When she’s not on Facebook, Wordpress or Twitter, she’s traveling in search of fun food, dabbling in urban farming or planning nature trips from her resident city of Rome. When she’s not doing any of the above, she sleeps. Google+

10 responses to “10 Taboo Gestures around the World”

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  1. Elle of Solo Female Nomad says:
    March 24th, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    This was a great read! Its so important to learn about the dos and donts of the country that you are visiting. They may seem strange, but its the norm for their culture. Great post!

  2. The Travel Tart says:
    March 29th, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    All good tips – what might be acceptable in one place may be offensive in another!

  3. Pamela says:
    September 4th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    what are some of the things that can be done to change the way that taboo is being viewed?

  4. Lilach says:
    June 27th, 2014 at 1:27 am

    shame that you didn’t put the hand shape gesture so we know what to avoid doing

  5. Priness says:
    June 28th, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Just give people the shaka and you will pretty much be good to go.

  6. Tim says:
    July 20th, 2014 at 1:36 am

    The “Got your nose” thumb between the index and middle finger in Korea is the same as the bird in the U.S.

  7. Ralph says:
    July 23rd, 2014 at 1:46 am

    Good tips. Always best to study the culture before you go.
    But #9 “…will cause offence everywhere”, really everywhere?

  8. Dawn says:
    July 28th, 2014 at 1:43 am

    What does the gesture referred to as 10 mean when rock stars use it?

  9. SteveOfTexas says:
    August 4th, 2014 at 6:32 am

    A clenched fist with the second and fifth fingers up?
    Hook ‘em Horns!

  10. KR says:
    August 8th, 2014 at 1:27 am

    With so many foreigners working here in America driving trucks and taxis, (among other things), it sounds like many of these gestures are best avoided at home, too, unless you know exactly who is around.


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