Let’s start this blog post with a little experiment:
Imagine you are in the gym and your coach just requested you to get some stuff from the locker room. Since you don’t want to yell all the way across the gym, you signal him “okay”. What gesture would you use? Would it be a thumbs up? Or a round circle made with your thumb and index finger?
Depending on the country that you are playing in, you might have just offended your coach without even knowing it. To prepare you for your season as an athlete abroad, here is the rough guide to rude gestures from around the world.
Meaning: pretty simple “Up yours”, or warming up your finger in someone else’s bottom
Where? Russia, Western Africa, Sardinia, Greece, Middle East, Latin America
The A- OK
Meaning: Unless your friend is a scuba diver and knows the international diving signal for okay, you just signaled quite the opposite. Actually, you are calling your opponent an “A-hole”, or just used the F-word in gestures.
Where? Brazil, Germany, Turkey
Talk to the hand- a.k.a. Moutza
Meaning: Can take on different variations and levels of “screw you/your sister/your family”, can be taken sexually offensive as well.
Where? Greece, Pakistan, parts of Africa
The chin flick
Meaning: Depending on the region, can be “get lost” or “I don’t care”
Where? Belgium, France, Northern Italy, Tunisia
Rock on horns- a.k.a. Corna
Meaning: No, it’s not rock’n’roll to everybody in the world , or good luck. It actually stands for unfaithfulness, or screwing somebody else’s partner.
Where? Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Colombia, the Baltics
Meaning: The mother of all insults in the country’s where it is practiced. Not only does it mean “F&$% you”, but also everyone else in your family.
Where? India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
Meaning: Yep, you guessed it, some countries like to shake things up, and reverse the meaning. Prepare for a season of unpleasant head bobbing until you get that “shaking is yes”, and “bobbing is no”. If you happen to find yourself in India, you might need a head shake translator.
Where? Greece, Bulgaria (India- with different variations of head shakes)
Meaning: A great way to try prison in the Middle East, basically telling someone that “your mother is promiscuous”.
Where? Arab countries, Caribbean
Meaning: The direct translation of this small gesture can range from a mild “screw you” to depicting female body parts in an insulting fashion
Where? Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, India, Indonesia
Come here- a.k.a. Dog call
Meaning: Nobody knows the actual meaning, but it’s so offensive it can land you in jail.
Bonus- The Middle Finger
Probably the only truly international gesture. Even though it might be called differently, everyone gets it.
Now you have a few ideas on which gestures to avoid or adjust to in your new home away from home. There will surely be a couple of millenials in these countries that have caught on to the other meanings of these gestures thanks to movies and TV series, but for the most part, it’s better to be on the careful side of things.
Often time, emotions reach a boiling point in close games, and we turn back to old habits. Keep in mind what gesture you are using. Think about the impact any of these will make in a published picture, on social media, associated with your profile. Take a close look at the respective culture you play in and how they communicate non-verbally. It’ll pay off in the long run, trust me.
If you’d like to dive even deeper into this topic (you might have to if you are playing in Italy this season) of gestures, I’ve put together a Pinterest board with articles and infographics.
Pictures Sources: Hamish Blair/Getty Images, Teen.com, cindersinrags.tumblr.com, weheartit.com, cdn.qwords.com, giphy.com, chud.com, designtaxi.com, blazeyouradventure.com