Misinterpreted Foreign Business Gestures

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Vol 42 Issue 35

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Misinterpreted Foreign Business Gestures

When working at a foreign business, it's important to learn the customs and body language of your new associates. Here are the most commonly misinterpreted gestures in other cultures, and what they mean:

  • Nigeria: Eye contact in restroom legally transfers bicycle ownership
  • Ukraine: Smiling means you successfully fixed a national election
  • Thailand: Closed fist moved up-and-down in a "wanking" motion can be misinterpreted as "You are a good little boy and are working very hard to make the sailors happy around the 'house'"
  • Sudan: Twiddling your thumbs means you are bragging that the warlords have yet to cut off your thumbs
  • Germany: Shaking your head communicates "I was unimpressed by your avantgarde one-man show last night"
  • Dominican Republic: Scratching your forearm and adjusting your shirt-sleeve can be misinterpreted as the hit-and-run sign
  • Angola: International sign for choking equals "Hello"
  • International: While both fists thrust forward with the index and pinkie fingers extended means "Metallica!!!" in North America, it means "Sepultura!!!" in Central/South America and "Turbonegro!!!" in Europe
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