Communication is one of the most important human inventions and evolutionary wonders that has made the world what it is today. Prehistoric humans used simple gestures and grunts in order to communicate with other humans. The environment, nutrition and evolution changed those simple gestures into complex words. Speech and language have built cities, civilization, created wars and destroyed kingdoms. But as the centuries go by, we have learned the true value of language, even if it is not spoken. We have learned how to communicate effectively, not just with our mouth but with our body. Gestures can convey messages, feelings or thoughts using specific forms of physical communication.

We already understand that modern communication, language and speech have made the world a smaller place in a sense, but we also know that the world is made up of many different countries and cultures. In one country alone, it is possible that every region in that particular country has their own language and culture different from another region. A gesture or particular body language may mean something entirely differently in another region or another country. Each of us know how to use our body parts to send messages to our friends, peers or family members, but we may never realize that it means something different if you do it in another country. A gesture or a signal that means “yes” in one country or one culture could mean “no” in another.

Learning non-verbal communication is very important. Politicians and business people have recognized the importance of non-verbal communication, but everyone should also learn how to convey and read non-verbal communication. By understanding gestures and body language, you will be able to understand and communicate better with those around you and people of different cultures.

Gestures And Body Language Defined              

Body language and gestures are forms of non-verbal communication where visible body action or hand actions are used in communicating or relaying important messages in place of speech or in combination with spoken words. Gestures can involve movements of the face, hands and other body parts. Gestures are, as mentioned, culture-specific and can convey different meanings in another country, cultural or social setting.

19 Popular Gestures Used Around The World And Their Meanings

Depending on where you are in the world, some kinds of body language or hand gestures can be serious to some and funny or offending to others. Popular body and hand gestures include:

1. The OK or A-ok

Made by connecting the forefinger and the thumb in a circle while holding the other 3 fingers straight, this is the hand gesture for “OK”. In the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Australia it means ok or indicates satisfaction. In Italy, however, it means ass or anus! In Brazil, if the gesture is turned upside down, it is the equivalent of doing the bird or the one finger salute.

2. The V Or The Victory Sign

If the index and middle finger are held in a “V” shape with the palms facing forward, it means victory or peace  in England, the US, Japan, the Philippines and North America. Now, doing the “V” sign with the palms facing inward means “up yours” in the UK, Australia and Europe.

Because Sir Winston Churchill says so. Image credit:

Because Sir Winston Churchill says so. Image credit:

3. The Clenched Fist

The clenched fist is a common gesture that means defiance, rebellion, struggle or solidarity in many countries around the world. If it faces the signer, it means physical violence in the Philippines and other Asian countries. If the clenched fist is held upright with the elbow at a right angle and the palms facing forward, it means “keep the faith” (KTF for short) in the UK and Australia.

Power to the people! Image credit:

Power to the people! Image credit:

4. The Horn

In the United States and Northern America, the horn is a hand gesture adopted by rockers that indicates approval, satisfaction or to “rock on”. If the sign is facing inward just under the signer’s mouth with their tongue sticking out, it’s the sign of the devil. In Italy, Spain, Portugal and Brazil, this hand gesture signifies that their wife is cheating on them.

Rock on! Image credit:

Rock on! Image credit:

5. Le Camembert or blah-blahs

The fingers are kept straight and together, held upwards or horizontal while the thumb is lower than the other fingers. The thumb and the fingers snap together, suggesting a mouth talking. In the US, UK, Australia, Canada and other English speaking countries, it indicates that someone is talking too much or gossiping. In France, closing the fingers and the thumb simply means “shut up”.

6. The Fingers All Together

We commonly see this hand gesture being used by Italians. In Italy, it means “what do you want?” or “what is this?” usually done with a flick of the wrist. In Turkey, it means something is beautiful or well done. In Egypt, the gesture means that you’ll be there in a minute.

7. The Finger Or The Bird

The extended middle finger with the back of the hand facing the other person is universal. It is an obscene gesture that means “up yours” or “f*** you”.

Image credit:

Image credit:

8. Slurping Soup

In most western countries, slurping your soup is a very big no-no. It generally signifies unsophistication. However, in Japan and China slurping the soup means that you’re enjoying your meal and it’s actually considered good manners.


9. The Thumbs Up

This is a common gesture of approval in the Philippines, US, Australia, UK, Russia and Canada. In Africa, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Latin America, the thumbs up is equivalent to the middle finger.

10. The Wanker

Mostly popular with football nations, “The Wanker”  is made by curling into a loose fist and moving the hands up and down as if masturbating.  It is also a British slang insult meaning a failure, a fool, or crazy person.

11. The Head Shaker

In Bulgaria, they nod their head up and down to signal “no”. If they want to signal “yes”, they will shake their head back and forth. This is the same in India, but has the opposite meaning in Northern America and other English speaking countries.

12. Crossed Fingers

In Northern America, Australia and the UK, it means good luck or wishing a person good luck. In Vietnam, this signifies a female genitals, thus it is offensive and lewd.

Image credit:

Image credit:

13. The L Sign

If the “L” sign is held up in the forehead, it means loser in the United States. In China, it means the number 8. In Belgium, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands, it indicates the number 2.

Image credit:

Image credit:

14. Beckoning

Curling the index finger to say “come here” is ok if you’re living in Northern America, Germany, UK or Australia. In the Philippines and other Asian countries, this gesture is only used to call for your dog. Using it towards a person is a derogatory gesture and you will earn a punch in the nose because you’re suggesting that you see them as inferior.

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Image credit:

15. The Cuckoo Sign, Loose Screw Or A Circling Gesture

In North America, South East Asia and other parts of Europe, this is a gesture signifying that the person is crazy or has lost their mind.

16. The Fig Sign

A hand gesture made by the thumb thrusting between the middle and index finger curled into a fist. In some cultures around the world, it indicates a good luck charm. But in Japan, Indonesia, Greece and Turkey, it signifies female genitalia.

Image credit:

Image credit:

17. Facepalm                 

This is a non-verbal expression of frustration or embarrassment made by raising the palm of the hand and making a slapping sound to the face. This gesture is popular in Northern America, UK, Australia, The Philippines and in any country that has access to

Image credit:

Image credit:

18. The Flicking Of The Chin                   

This gesture is used to express disinterest or to tell someone to “go f*** yourself” or “get lost” in Belgium and France. In Italy, it means “ I don’t care”, “ I don’t give a damn” or “who gives a shit”.

Image credit:

Image credit:

19. The Dick Head

If you encounter someone making a gesture that brings the fingers and the thumb together near the forehead, it means that you’re a dick head. This is especially effective if you’re one and if you’re in the UK.

Now you know some of the most common gestures used around the world. Just be careful when using any of these gestures abroad because someone might be offended and you could be going home with a big shiner.

Featured image: pixabay

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.