Body Parts Vocabulary Gestures Cultural Differences

Student A

In the time limit your teacher tells you, try to describe as many of the gestures below as you can to your partner. When they do the gesture and guess the meaning, you can move onto the next gesture. You can only describe the gesture to your partner and correct them if they make the same gesture, you cannot move your hands yourself. 

Point your first finger towards your chest (I/ me- most places)

Hold up your first two fingers in a V shape, with your palm facing the other person (two, peace, victory)

Put the palm of your open hand on your heart (I promise/ I am touched= I feel moved)

Hold your thumb and first finger at the edge of your mouth and pull it across your lips as if you are zipping it shout (Shut up! = be quiet- UK etc.)

Put your index finger near the side of your head and twist it round (crazy- Europe and the Americas)

Hold up ten fingers and fold the fingers down one by one (10, 9, 8 etc- most places; 1, 2, 3 etc- Japan)

Tap something wooden with your knuckles (I hope- Britain)

Make a cutting gesture with an open hand across your throat, with your palm facing down (Dead- most places; stop (talking), for example when giving a presentation- US etc; fired from your job- Japan)

With your first finger, pretend you are drawing a cross on your ribs more or less where your heart is (cross my heart= I promise- UK etc.)

Hold out your first two fingers and your thumb and rub them together (money- many places)

Point your thumb to the floor with your fingers folded into your palm(bad-most places; go to hell- Japan)

Touch the end of your nose with the end of your thumb, open your hand and move your fingers up and down like you are playing a trumpet (a childish insult- Europe and America)

Hold out the index fingers of both hands and then touch the length of the two index fingers together (they are a couple- Turkey etc.)

Tip your head to the left and draw air into your mouth through your teeth, making a hiss (not sure- Japan)

Make an L shape with your thumb and first finger and put it on your forehead (you are a loser- US)

Put both hands around your throat, open your mouth and stick out your tongue (choking/ you choked= you failed badly, maybe because of being nervous- USA)

Put your index finger along the side of your nose, pointing up, and then tap the side of your nose three times (Don’t be nosy= Mind your own business= It’s my private business- UK)

Pull down the bottom eyelid of your left eye with your left index finger. (Be careful- France)

Roll your eyes around (Oh my god= Not again! = I can’t believe it-America etc.)

Put an open hand under your chin with the tops of your fingers touching your chin and your fingers pointing towards your throat. Pull your hand out away from your neck and towards the person you are speaking to (I don’t care- Italian)


Body Parts Vocabulary Gestures Cultural Differences Student B

In the time limit your teacher tells you, try to describe as many of the gestures below as you can to your partner. When they do the gesture and guess the meaning, you can move onto the next gesture. You can only describe the gesture to your partner and correct them if they make the same gesture, you cannot move your hands yourself.

Look at someone and raise your eyebrows (Hello- almost all countries, No- Turkey, I like you- Japan)

Hold up your thumb with the rest of your hand closed (OK-USA etc, very bad insult- many other places)

Put your palms together and bow (Hello-Thailand, Sorry-many places, especially in Asia)

Put your first finger on the side of your head and tap your head a few times (Mad, you should think about it/ remember)

Hold up your right hand vertically and put your open left hand over the top horizontally to make a T sign (Time out= let’s take a break- USA and now many other places)

Move both hands as if they are mouths (You are talking a lot about nothing- UK and USA)

Hold up an open hand and make a circle from your first finger and thumb (Okay- USA and now many other places, you are gay- Turkey etc.)

Hold up only your thumb and little finger and point your thumb towards your mouth (Drinking= drunk- Australia etc.)

Hold out your hand in front of you with your palm facing down. Twist your hand from the wrist from side to side like you are screwing something (So-so= not bad- many countries)

Hold up only your thumb and little finger (6- China)

Point your index finger towards your nose (I/ me- Japan, nose- most other places)

Touch your finger tips with your thumb and kiss the ends of your thumb and fingers (Delicious- Italy and now other places)

Flick back your head and raise your eyebrows (No- Turkey, Greece etc)

Hold up only your little finger (Woman- Japan)

Hold up your fingers and thumb with them all touching, then move your fingers and thumb in and out (It’s very crowded in here= There are many people= It’s full- Spain and most of Latin America)

Breathe on the end of your fingers (Be quiet- Saudi Arabia)

Clap your hands very slowly (Sarcastic applause= That was very bad- UK and USA etc.)

Cross your first two fingers, so that your middle finger is over your index finger. (I hope/ I wish-UK etc.)

With the thumb and first fingers of both hands pointing up in V shapes, join the thumbs to make a the shape of the letter W towards the person you are speaking to (‘Whatever!’= I don’t care- America and now young people in UK)

Breathe on the end of your fingers then polish your fingernails on your shirt (I did a very good job= congratulations to me= I am proud of myself- UK)

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PDF version for easy saving and printing: International gestures pairwork

4 Responses to Body Parts Vocabulary Gestures Cultural Differences

  1. queenrm says:

    Going to have fun with this tomorrow with my Business English class. Thanks so much for posting this!

  2. Thanks Alex. Really well explained.

  3. Carlos Chavelas says:

    Excellent exercise!!!

  4. Angela Pannell says:

    loving this for linguistic Anthropology thank you

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