Travelers who visit foreign lands and who don’t have a good grasp of the local language often rely on hand signs to make themselves understood. But if you want to befriend the locals or just avoid angering everyone around, you should watch their hands very carefully. What may seem like an innocuous hand gesture in North America can have severe social consequences abroad. While pointing with an index finger seems to be rude everywhere in the world, most hand signs meaning vary widely from country to country — a simple thumbs-up or even crossed fingers can land you in hot water.
This guide to hand signs and what they mean in foreign countries will help you stay polite when abroad — or teach you how to make your point in a bad-mannered, and sometimes obscene, way if that’s what you’re after.