Most of us might already know that there are gestures we use here in Germany on a daily basis which have a completely different meaning in other parts of the world. I ran into one of those ‘situations’ a while ago, when I was still allowed to dive. So – one day at the marvelous Cook Islands – we were part of a small but very international group waiting for our first dive of the day. People came from – well – Germany, Brazil, Greece, US, Venezuela and France. The French, Greek and Brazil guys did not really speak much English, so we tried to communicate a lot via sign language while waiting for our boat.



In diver language (and in many English-speaking and Northern and Western European countries), forming a circle with your thumb and the index finger means ‘everything is ok’. Greenhorn I was, and of course I used this sign outside the water to ask if they like the island of Rarotonga– which raised a laugh from the Brazil guy and a flood of curses (however not seriously meant) from the Greek gentleman. I wasn’t aware of any shortcoming on my part – but then they explained to me that in Brazil, and dsc_30381also in Greece, this sign means something really vulgar. Fortunately, as divers, they were used to it, and had fun fooling others that fell into their trap.

In a business relationship, you really should avoid using certain gestures. And if you are traveling to other countries you are not familiar with the culture, or if you are working a lot with colleagues from different parts of the world, it doesn’t harm to inform yourself which gestures to avoid …

A good explanation in German about differences in gestures can be found here; in English I’ll give you the choice between an article and a slideshow. And if you google for ‘gestures in different cultures’ you can find much more information. (mc)