Cultural intelligence

Your hands speak loud!

Gestures! Get them right!

Cupping ones fingertips on one hand, almost like mimicking the shape of a flower bud and held towards another person, means something completely different in different cultures. In Italy it means ‘What is it?’ and ‘What do you want?’, usually expressed with mild irritation. The same gesture in Egypt, Israel and Palestine, means a polite, ‘Bear with me!’ or ‘Just a moment’. If you were to use this gesture in Turkey, it means Beautiful! And Good! The identical positioning of the fingers that look like a flower bud, describe a small or little person in the Congo.


Amazingly, crossing the pointing finger and the middle finger means Good Luck in Brazil, Canada and Great Britain, but it means, ‘I am lying and behind my back I admit it’ in Sweden, Switzerland and Spain…even though it is a childish coping strategy! The same crossed fingers mean the number 10 in China.


Some hand gestures can really get you into trouble so be cautious – find out what they mean before you use them. There are those that are obvious vulgar gestures to some cultures but the same positioning of the thumb and fingers are actually signs of happiness and good luck in other cultures. Get them right!


Have you made faux pas with your hands?

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