The Forearm Jerk (Bras D'Honneur) A bad idea in: France, southern Europe, the Mideast, the U.S.
You know this one: slap a hand down on the opposite bicep, then raise that arm into a fist. This macho combination of a gigantic erect penis and a threatening fist says, "Fuck off!" or "Up yours!" In France it is called the bras d'honneur, or arm of honor, which I suspect is meant to be sarcastic. Call me intuitive.
A bad idea in: Spain, Portugal, the Baltics, Brazil, Colombia
"Rock 'n roll!"
"Hook 'em, Horns!"
"Your wife is a whore!"
Guess which one is the international translation? So even if you're a Texas Longhorn at a Dokken concert in Barcelona, you'd best keep your digits to yourself.
Moutza ("Eat shit") A bad idea in: Greece, Pakistan and parts of Africa
An offensive display of an open palm, the moutza recalls the ancient Byzantine practice of thrusting shit in the faces of chained criminals as they were paraded around town. In modern Greece, any outward hand motion is deemed extremely offensive. They go as far as waving goodbye inwardly toward themselves like a beauty pageant queen in order to avoid an ass-whupping.
The Palm-Back VA bad idea in: The UK, Australia, New Zealand, Italy
Like a peace sign, but backwards, in both execution and meaning. Raise two fingers in a "V" with your palm facing you to say, "up your ass" or "fuck off." George Bush, Sr. famously gave the sign to Australians in 1992, thinking he was giving the peace sign. The "V" is also considered rude in Italy, especially if you place your nose between the two fingers to resemble a crude vagina... or your vagina between the two fingers to resemble a crude nose.
A bad idea in: Saudi Arabia
Not quite as simple as most obscene gestures, but if you are interested in losing your hands, here's how you do it: form an inverted V with your right index finger and thumb, then place them over your extended left index finger to say, "I'll ride you like a donkey." Here's hoping that is not meant in a sexual sense, because donkeys kick. Hard.
Thumbs-Up A bad idea in: The Middle East, Russia, Greece, Sardinia, Western Africa, Latin America
It might mean "nice job" or "way to go" in America, but in many places abroad, the gesture invites the recipient(s) to "sit on my erect penis," which, believe it or not, many people find insulting. In southern Sardinia, where the gesture is particularly obscene, hitchhiking is discouraged. And in the Middle East, don't try any Fonzie impressions, since the double thumbs-up will unleash a jihad on your ass.
ConchaA bad idea in: Chile
Another delight from the Southern Hemisphere. Hold up a palm towards you and slightly curl the fingers to form the shape of a shell. Then say, "Concha de tu madre," which literally means, "Your mother's shell," but figuratively means, "Your mama's dried up, nasty cooch." Try it at a soccer game or protest rally, and let us know what happens.
A bad idea in: India, Turkey, Italy
Once a positive gesture wishing luck and fertility to the recipient, the Fig -- a fist with the thumb sticking up between the index and middle finger -- is now the equivalent of a bird in many fun countries like Turkey, where Midnight Express takes place.
Up The Ass
A bad idea in: France
Take your middle finger and thrust it up into the curled up fist of your other hand, and you'll discover yet another way for the French to tell each other, "You take it up the ass," something they seem to say a lot over there. Hopefully they don't really take it up the ass as much as they say it.
Closed Fist A bad idea in: Pakistan
A single raised, closed fist in Pakistan, like the bras d'honneur in France, means that the sender invites you take a hard phallus up into your rectum. You then have every right to raise both your closed fists and beat that person like a rented mule.
A bad idea in: Brazil, Germany, some areas around the Mediterranean
What is "ok" to Americans is just "o" in some other countries, and that "o" represents an anus, which means you are calling the recipient an asshole. If you're trying to say, "Ok, asshole," then your message works just about anywhere in the world.
The Dog CallA bad idea in: The Philippines
Know how in America we might signal someone to "come here" by curling an index finger toward ourselves repeatedly? Yeah. Don't do that in the Philippines, where it's a gesture fit only for dogs (who probably aren't wild about it, either) and can get you arrested at best and beaten like a dog at worst.
CutisA bad idea in: India, Pakistan
The next time you're in India or Pakistan, take a fist with the thumb sticking out, then flick the thumbnail off your two front teeth as you say, "Cutta!" You've just told someone, "screw you and your family." Well done. Now run, motherfucker.
A bad idea in: Japan
Japanese don't like Koreans. They call them "animals" by extending four fingers of one hand in another person's face. If I'm Korean, I'm grabbing those fingers with my fingers and bending them backwards until they snap, so that person won't be giving any animals for a while.
A bad idea in: Chile
If you know the "Little Bunny Foo-Foo" song, you can do the tapita. It's the same thing you do when you pick up field mice and bop them on the head: make an O with one hand and tap the top of that O with the other hand. It means "small cover," which doesn't sound all that insulting, but this is Chile, where people disappear for lesser infractions, so you don't want to screw around.
List Of The Day: Obscene Gestures Of The World