International Gestures - Opening the Door to Understanding Other Cultures 異文化理解への扉を開く――各国のジェスチャー

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In Japan, and especially in Tokyo, there are many expatriates from all over the world.


I'm sure all of us find it interesting but at the same time challenging to live in a different culture.                


I remember having a very embarrassing experience when I lived in Pakistan.


We employed a male Afghan cook.               

アフガニスタン人の男性の料理人をやといまし た。

On one occasion, he asked me to taste the Palaw rice he had prepared for dinner.


The rice was delicious so to show my approval, I made a "thumbs up" sign.


I was surprised to see my cook's shocked facial expression.

彼がショックを受けた表情をしてい るのを見て私は驚きました。

He bluntly told me never to make that gesture, especially in front of a man.


He explained that in Afghanistan, the "thumbs up" sign is taboo, especially for women.


It conveys the message that a person making the sign wants to have intimate relations with the other person.               

親指を立てた人は、相手と 特別な関係になりたいことを伝えているからです。

I explained to my cook that it has a positive meaning in western countries and I told him that it is one way of showing approval for a job well done, or that it simply means "okay."

私は料理人に、西洋ではそれはよい意味であり、仕事がよくできたことを認める方法のひとつで、単純にOK の意味でもあると説明しました。

After that experience, I never used the "thumbs up" sign again while living in Pakistan.


I also became very cautious when it comes to cultural "do's and don'ts" and learnt that there are many different interpretations of gestures depending on the region.


Here, I will explain some interesting interpretations of gestures.


Many different meanings of hand gestures        


The most well-known gesture internationally must be the "V sign."


You keep your palm facing away from you and make a "V" with your index finger and middle finger.                           


This sign became famous after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used it during WWII and means "victory" in most of Europe and other countries.

戦時中、イギリスの チャーチル首相が使用して有名になりました。ヨーロッパや他の国で勝利を意味します。

It also means "two" such as two people or products in non-British-oriented countries, as well as in Japan.                   

英国系でない国や日本では、人や物がふたつあることを意味しま す。

When you make a circle with your thumb and forefinger, it signifies "money" in Japan, but it is widely accepted as the American sign for "okay,"


While in southern France, it means "zero" or "worthless."

一方、南フランスでは「ゼ ロ」または「価値がない」ことを表します。

In Brazil and Germany it is taken as a vulgar or obscene gesture.


In Greece and Russia it is considered impolite.      


As I explained, the "thumbs up" sign is a rude gesture in Afghanistan and also in Australia, but in almost every other part of the world, it simply means "okay."

説明 したように、親指を立てることは、オーストラリアとアフガニスタンでは無礼なジェスチャーですが、世界のほとんどの国で、単純に「OK」を表します。

Do not point someone out with your finger.                            


Doing so is impolite in many countries, especially in most Middle and Far Eastern countries, including Japan.       


Use an open hand in such cases.                  


Beckoning someone with your palm down and all your fingers waving means "come here" in Japan and "go away" in the USA and some other western countries.   


Using the finger(s) to beckon someone is insulting to most Middle and Far Eastern people.                          


Finger snapping is used in Japan to signify you have done something great or missed something.                   


Snapping the fingers of both hands has a vulgar meaning in France and Belgium.

フランスとベルギーでは両手の指を鳴らすことは下 品さを意味します。

Crossing the fingers has several meanings, most commonly "protection" or "good luck" in Europe, while in Paraguay it is offensive.              

指を交差させることにはいろいろな意味があります。ヨーロッパでは 「保護」や「幸運」が最も一般的です。パラグアイでは「不快」なジェスチャーとなります。

Two fingers tapping means a couple is sleeping together in Egypt.


It can also mean, "Would you like to sleep together?"

また「一緒に寝たいですか?」と誘う意味もあり ます。

Putting your thumb between your index finger and middle finger means "I want to make love to you" in Japan and is an obscene gesture of contempt in some European and Mediterranean countries.                  

人さし指と中指の間に親指を入れると、「あなたと寝たい」という意味に日本ではなります。ヨーロッパや地中海の国々でも軽蔑されるわいせつなジェス チャーです。

In Brazil and Venezuela, it is a symbol of good luck.


In Italy, vertical horns signify that you are being cuckolded.


But it can be a sign of good luck in Latin America.


Horizontal horns means protecting oneself against evil spirits in most European countries.


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