International hand gestures: How to avoid trouble by making the correct hand gestures

When George W. Bush made his inaugural speech in Washington, he unwittingly confused a lot of people in other cultures by making the “sign of the horns.” In the USA, this is a hand gesture used in sporting events to signal victory.

hand gestures

Learn some of the basic and more popular gestures before travelling to another country.

But it is also a symbol in heavy metal music and subculture. In some European cultures it suggests infidelity or Satanic association.

In China and Hong Kong it actually means ‘7.’ These communities can count up to over 20 using a single hand.






The “O.K.” sign

USA, UK, Ireland, Germany - OK

Brazil - a vagina

South of France - worthless

Japan - money




“V” sign – note that the palm is facing outward!


USA - peace

UK and Ireland - victory

Japan - hello

Thumbs up

USA, UK and Ireland - OK, good

Germany - OK, good, the number 1

Japan - the number 5

Australia and Nigeria - “up yours” – a rude gesture




“V” sign with palm facing inward


UK, Ireland and South Africa - a very rude gesture




Hook ’em horns


USA - a greeting for sports teams

Italy - “Your spouse is cheating on you.”

Venezuela - Good luck!




Insider tip: Learn some of the basic and more popular gestures before travelling to another country

Be aware and respectful. If you don’t understand a gesture, ask politely what it means. If you feel you have insulted someone, apologise.

  • Could you explain that hand gesture to me? We don’t have it in Germany.
  • I don’t understand what that means. Can you explain it to me?
  • I’m sorry, have I done something I shouldn’t have?

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