When you’re far from home, even what you’d assume to be the most universal gesture might mean something completely different than you’d expect. It’s a concept explored in the book Don’t Get Me Wrong! – The Global Gestures Guide with helpful pictures by photographer Florian Bong-Kil Grosse. The book is published by Julia Grosse and Judith Reker and Bierke Publishing, and will also be introduced to beleaguered travellers as a handy iPhone app ($1.99). For example, in Turkey this gesture is a positive, upbeat physical expression that means “beautiful” or “good.”

This entertaining publication takes all those by the hand who are curious about the diversity of communication. Two foreign correspondents have gathered everyday hand gestures from around 50 countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe. The results, beautifully captured in nearly 80 colour photographs, are often amusing and always instructive. With its original design, stunning finish and handy format, ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong!’ makes for a cool and compact travel companion. Beautifully designed by a team of award-winning art book designers, the gestures from around 50 countries were researched and collected by two well-travelled journalists.
You can order the book at:
Don’t Get Me Wrong: The Global Gestures Guide
A Life.com photo gallery from the book is available at:
More reports about hand gestures are available at:
An overview of some international ‘angry’ hand gestures:

Hands reveal thoughts.

Language researchers say: people should not only listen to words, one should also have an eye for gestures. But what does this really mean?

Take a look at somebody who is making a call. Although, the person on the other side of the line can not see the hands of the speaker, the hands are moving involuntarily and the head nods sometimes along with the words. That is, explains Susan Goldin-Meadow, because voice and gestures relate to one system.


Goldin-Meadow discovered that both of communication tools – voice and gesture – initially develop separately. Baby’s show babbling and fluttering hands, but sound and gesture are not synchrone yet. Synchronicity doesn’t occure untill about eighteen months, when children start using two word phrases. So at the moment when their use of language is getting more complicated, children start using gestures of support. Goldin-Meadow also found that deaf children develop hand gestures spontaneously, even if these hand gestures were not offered by adults.


People should not only listen to words, they should also have an eye for gestures. A hand gesture can represent a word which the speaker may not even think – a circle-motion with the fingers may be used for the word ‘spiral staircase’ – but might also relate to a reflection in full swing. “Hands help us think,” says Goldin-Meadow. In this sense, gestures can play an important role in learning.

Professor Susan Goldin-Meadow (psychologist) says:

“Hands can reveal our thoughts. People express with their hands, what words can not say.”

Dutch source: Handen verraden gedachten [Hands unveil thoughts]