Use With Caution: Hand Gestures Mean Very Different Things Outside the U.S.

I am not the most graceful of human beings.

In high school, I broke my foot after I tripped over … nothing.

And that’s just my physical clumsiness. Show me an awkward situation, and I’ll innocently find a way to make it worse.

Just imagine my qualms – along with excitement, of course – when I landed in Israel.

Other than my irrational fear of breaking the Western Wall (it’s old, you know), my No. 1 fear was to insult somebody. Israel is a cultural melting pot, one of the few places where all of the world’s major religions have a large presence and where people from every corner of the globe come together.

I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I would accidentally touch an Orthodox rabbi. Oy vey!

But, that brought me to an interesting thought — something so harmless in one circle can be so offensive in another.

It’s important to acknowledge, and respect, that what might be innocuous in America (for example, the “rock on” symbol) might suggest your wife is cheating on you in another (ahem, looking at you, Brazil).

With more than 190 office locations and many virtual offices, Avaya is a hodgepodge of cultures, communities and colleagues. The Power of We™ comes from all corners of the world. Avaya’s solutions reduce the need for travel, cut costs and help the environment; still, for most technology companies, there is the rare occasion when travel is a necessity.

So, before you flag down your waiter, pantomime your way to the nearest bathroom or flash a thumbs up at the taxi driver, check out this infographic for six gestures to use with caution outside the U.S.

Have you ever made a faux pas in a foreign country? What are the cultural norms in your region? Comment below, and join the conversation.

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