Be Careful Where You Point That: A-ok Hand Gesture

If you live in the United States, the A-Ok signal is given by connecting your index finger with your thumb as a sign for OK good thing. In the western society this hand gesture usually denotes positive feelings. This however is not a universal gesture, for it does not give the same message in other cultures around the world. The western culture encompasses only a small minority of the people of Earth and there is much to be learned.

For those touring about the world, be careful when and where you give the ok gesture because it could range

from being rude to downright offensive, possible even on the level of the middle finger. For example, in Venezuela and Turkey giving the ok to someone is like telling them that they are homosexual. This connotation comes from the hole in the ‘okay’ symbol that represents a widened anal tract. In France and Belgium it gives the impression of worthless or the number zero, so do not give people of these countries the OK sign, for it would be incredibly offensive.

In Brazil it is the equivalent of the middle finger, an infamous example of this occurred in the 50’s when Richard Nixon visited Brazil and flashed the OK sign when descending from his plane; this simple act was effectively giving the middle finger to the waiting crowd, could you imagine a foreign leader doing this on national television.

Not all different

meanings are negative but some can hold either positive or neutral meanings; in Japan it means money. In Finland it could be used by personnel in the military to show that they have 0 days left to serve.

Now the US isn’t too foreign, some other countries also apply similar meanings to the OK as many Americans. The gesture can mean well ok in countries such as Canada, Ireland, scuba diving (the thumbs up means you want to ascend to the surface), Italy, and young people in Japan.
I hope you this column will help you to be more conscious of how you behave in other countries and cultures and be wearier of yourself when backpacking across the globe.


Sources Cited:
"How to Avoid Insulting the Audience with Your Body Language." How to Avoid Insulting the Audience with Your Body Language. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <>.
"Japan Business Etiquette, Culture, & Manners." Japan. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <>.
Baxamusa, Batul Nafisa. "Hand Gestures in Different Cultures.", 19 May 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <>.


Article Written By GDop26

RIT student

Last updated on 29-07-2016 3K 0

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