Common Gestures Considered Rude in Some Countries

Thumbs up

Various countries around the world have their sets of beliefs and traditions. Some of them have deeply-held beliefs that started centuries ago. You might be surprised though to see that as you move from one country to another, the meaning of your words and actions could vary. Some innocent gestures might even be seen as rude.

Keeping your hands inside your pocket

It might seem like an innocent move. When you are cold, you keep your hands warm by placing them inside your pocket. However, in places like Korea and Japan, the said action is deemed rude. It is a sign of arrogance. Some people could even be too angry that they won’t mind starting a fight.


In most countries, nodding means yes. However, in other countries like Bulgaria, it is the opposite. When you nod, it means no and when you shake your head sideways, it means yes. You would rather say the word than do the action.

Giving gifts

Giving Gifts

Giving gifts is common in several countries. It means that you appreciate the person who is receiving your present. It could also mean that you are celebrating a milestone or an occasion. However, in some countries, you need to ask first if it is okay to give a present. It could be an insult since it shows that you look down on the recipient. In Japan, you need to hand in a gift with two hands. You even have to bow in the process. It is a sign of respect.

Shaking hands

You might think that it is polite to shake hands. It is not always the case in most countries. In Japan, bowing your head is the common way to greet other people. In some European countries, you need to kiss each other on the cheeks. In Thailand and India, you place your hands together and slightly bow your head. In some Islamic countries, men are not even allowed to touch women they do not know. It might be awkward when you offer your hand for a hand shake and get nothing.

Thumbs up

Do not always assume that thumbs up is a sign of approval or okay. You might also think it is universal because the Like button in Facebook is a thumbs up. However, it is considered rude in most Middle Eastern countries and it is the equivalent of the middle finger in the West.

Pointing at things

You usually point things with your index finger. You do it when you want to purchase an item or point to a direction. In some countries, it is considered rude and offensive. In other countries, pointing with their mouth is common, but in others, it is like making fun of them.

Checking your watch

There is nothing wrong in checking the time, right? In some countries, it is rude to look at your watch when you are in a conversation or a meeting. It is like you are rushing the person you are talking with.

Given these differences, it helps if you study the country where you are going and be aware of what they deem as polite or rude.

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