Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: Re: gestures
From: Carl Johnson (carlj7yahoo.com)
Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2003 18:27:28 GMT
> Are there any gestures important to learn when in conversation? Are there any that would be considered taboo?
The Japanese have a lot of hand gestures that are different from standard American ones. I don't know if there any "taboo" ones. Though they are aware of the American use of the middle finger, they treat it as more of a novelty. My one friend told me that he considered middle finger to have about the same meaning as thumbs down. Still, it's probably best to avoid it.
The Japanese will do the OK hand, I believe (but my memory is fuzzy).
More typical Japanese gestures are the shallow wave to indicate "come here." It looks to an American like you're brushing some away, but the meaning is the opposite. Thumb and forefinger can be used to indicate small or "let's get a drink." Pinkie is girlfriend, thumb is boyfriend. To do numbers one through five is like America, and for six through ten you put one hand in front of another. (Which is really intuitive and gets rid of the 6 or 51 type ambiguities that the American version has.) When counting the tendency is to start with a closed fist (zero) then extend fingers from pinkie (1) to whole hand (5), but I don't know if there are set in stone rules on that. They play paper, rock, scissors with the same gestures, but there's a big opening phrase and motion you do before you battle. They pinkie swear. The Japanese (in my opinion) aren't as much about hugs as Americans, but they're more willing to hit each other on the head to show friendly disapproval. Horns by the head means someone is angry. A fist in front of the nose means the long nose of a demon, Tengu. I forget what tengu symbolizes. Probably jealousy. You point to your nose to indicate yourself (not your chest) and it's done at greater frequency. When something even mildly embarrassing happens or people are talking about you, you put your hand on the back of your head and scratch it. (That one is really catchy, I think.)
There's more, but that's what I can think of off the top of my head.
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