International Body Language & Manners: The Sequel


Here’s 9 more utterly fascinating gestures and behaviors from around the world to tickle your fancy:

chopsticksYou get done eating your rice at a restaurant in Tokyo with your Japanese friends and you do what’s in the picture at left. Why might some of your friends be offended?

  1. You didn’t finish all your food.
  2. it’s offensive because chopsticks in a bowl of food pointing at the sky resembles a funeral offering.
  3. Your chopsticks are pointed the wrong way.

It’s #2, and here’s the history behind it:

White rice was precious for most poor people before the Meiji period. At a Buddhist funeral, family members placed rice with chopsticks upright in front of the cremains or a tablet and said “Please enjoy this rice which you couldn’t eat in your lifetime” (and the family members then enjoy the rice.)

Plobesulling on your earlobe signals what in India?

  1. I can’t hear you.
  2. I feel bad about what happened.
  3. Time for charades!
  4. When’s dinner?

It’s #2. Tugging an earlobe commonly means the tugger is expressing remorse.

In America, if you’re Carol Burnett at the end of your TV show from the 70s, an ear tug was a secret hello to her grandmother.

Ebahnmiating while walking down the street in Japan: cool or uncool?
It used to be seen as uncool, but some say that is changing. However, eating (or drinking) while walking down the street may be a bit impractical, as it is very difficult to find a trash can on the street in which to discard your trash (as of 2003 when I was last there).


What does this symbol mean?

  1. We’re number one!!
  2. God lives up there.
  3. La-hoo-SER!
  4. My dog has run away.

Well, if you don’t know, then you’re a #3.

Tthumbsuphumbs Up Part Two What does this symbol mean?

  1. Great, ok!
  2. You want to have sex with person you thumbed.
  3. Move one channel up on the TV.
  4. Give me a ride!

All of the above.

This is the gesture that got the most comments on the last post. Though I saw in many places on the web that “thumbs up” in many countries used to be construed as something offensive, the U.S. meaning (good and o.k.) has apparently caught on.

Oh, and number three is also correct, at least when this remote is used.

noseGot Your Nose!In the U.S., this gesture is used in a game with children in which you touch their nose with your hand, then say, “Got your nose!” and the children giggle manically. In some Middle Eastern countries, what does it mean?

  1. Oh geez, is EVERYTHING obscene over there?
  2. A sexual part of the female anatomy.
  3. My hand is deformed.
  4. It’s a fist, what else would it be?

Yes, it’s #2 (and #1).

Wflthen would you use this gesture/action?

  1. When you’re imitating the world-famous flutist Jean Pierre Cromwell.
  2. When talking to your French friends to describe the boorish gent you were trapped with at a party.
  3. When ordering pretzel sticks with extra salt in Germany.

It’s #2. I found several references to this but could not find the origin of this gesture. Any Francophiles here who could tell me where it comes from?

fistHolding a fist in the air with knuckles outward means what in Argentina?

  1. My fist is coming towards your face.
  2. Zero.
  3. Victory
  4. I’m hungry.

It’s #3.

What is thissuperfinger symbol?

  1. I thought we covered this already.
  2. I don’t see fingers…I see lines and slashes…
  3. Super Finger!
  4. I’m drunk.

#4. This is comedian Dane Cook’s logo. He created it because:

“…the finger is lame now and it’s lost its pizazz. …I wanted to upgrade the finger and so from now on people should use both the ring finger coupled with the middle finger. I called it the SUperFInger (or SU-FI),”

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