Russian Wives at Red October

Non-verbal Communication: Gestures

This seems to be an interesting subject. Gestures have many different meanings throughout the world. What is polite and acceptable in one part of the world might be rude and unthinkable in another place.

Take for instance pointing. We are all taught here in the USA that pointing is rude. It is something that is ingrained into us for a lifetime (although your index finger is best used for nose picking). In Russia it is similar, except as I understood, you don’t use your index finger in any kind of gesture.

Gestures tell alot!

Gestures tell alot!

Something that came up a while back was when Lena and I gave a presentation. The whole time, she kept using her middle finger to point at the computer screen and then wave it around. I was a little embarrassed about this, but couldn’t stop her while we were meeting with clients. Afterwards, I explained to her that the use of the middle finger (commonly referred to as “The Bird”) in the USA pretty much means f*ck you and that we don’t use this finger for anything else. Of course she was absolutely embarrassed after that but soon we were laughing about it.

In Russia, it is very common to wave down a car and negotiate a ride. Russian law lets any car be a taxi. The first time we did this, I thought Lena was crazy. She gestured to a random car to stop. And when it did, I thought I would have a heart attack. It’s very bad business in the USA to do this thing we call hitch-hiking. It was later that day that I learned of this phenomenon.

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