• There is some debate over whether or not gestures can even be considered folklore. Language includes elements such as the spoken word and written prose, so why shouldn’t it also include ideas conveyed through other physical expressions? This question cannot be easily resolved, but gestures do have some evidence in support of them being folklore: they have associations with various cultures, don’t have specific creators, and are passed down from individual to individual. Either way, one can find interesting similarities and differences between various cultures. Some have exaggerated, dramatic gestures, while others are more subtle or designed to be used behind someone else’s back. Most cultures have variants of the middle finger; widely applicable very rude gestures seem to be a requirement to communication within a culture.



Chinese Gestures

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 1 (Pointing Feet and Crossing Legs)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 2 (Hand Clenching Gesture)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 3 (Pointing Chopsticks)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 4 (Pointing with Pinky)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 5 (Proper Hand Signaling)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 6 (Pouring a Full Cup of Tea)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 7 (Pointing Tea Pot Spout Towards Someone)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 8 (Pointing to the Sky and to the Ground)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 9 (白眼)

Insulting Gestures: China: Gesture 10 (Resting Head on the Palm of the Hand)

Japanese Gestures

Insulting Gestures: Japan: Gesture 1

Insulting Gestures: Japan: Gesture 2

Insulting Gestures: Japan: Gesture 3

Insulting Gestures: Japan: Gesture 4

Insulting Gestures: Japan: Gesture 5

Japanese Insulting Gesture #6

Japanese Insulting Gesture #7

Japanese Insulting Gesture #8

Japanese Insulting Gesture #9

Japanese Insulting Gesture #10

French Gestures

Insulting Gestures: France: Gesture 1 (Shaking hand)

Insulting Gestures: France: Gesture 2 (Chin flick)

Insulting Gestures: France: Gesture 3 (Casse!)

Insulting Gestures: France: Gesture 4 (Twisting finger to head)

Insulting Gestures: France: Gesture 5 (Clenched fist and arm)

Insulting Gestures – France: Gesture 6

Insulting Gestures- France: Gesture 7

Insulting Gestures – France: Gesture 8

Insulting Gestures – France: Gesture 9

Insulting Gestures – France: Gesture 10

Italian Gestures

Insulting Gestures: Italy — Gesture 1

Insulting Gestures: Italy — Gesture 2

Insulting Gestures: Italian — Gesture 3

Insulting Gestures: Italian — Gesture 4

Insulting Gestures: Italian — Gesture 5

Insulting Gestures: Italian — Gesture 6

Insulting Gestures: Italy — Gesture 7

Insulting Gestures: Italy — Gesture 8

Insulting Gestures: Italian — Gesture 9

Insulting Gestures: Italy — Gesture 10

American Children Gestures

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 1

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 2

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 3

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 4

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 5

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 6

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 7

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 8

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 9

Insulting Gestures: American Children — Gesture 10


  • Eitan Vilker
  • Cherie Noelle-Kaanana
  • Alexander Zureick
  • Young Jang
  • Seamore Zhu
  • Jordan Siegal
  • Emily Wang
  • Brian Chiang
  • Lizzie Clark
  • Carson Spahr

Cross-Cultural Analysis

Our group aimed to find gestures that were as specific to the regions we were studying as possible. We did not conduct as much research on universal gestures or shared gestures because we wanted to highlight the mannerisms that were as unique to the cultures being studied as possible.

We did find, however, a few key similarities and differences between our regions.  In China and Japan, people can easily offend others through their poor table manners. In Japan, gestures are also often done behind a person’s back as opposed to face to face, and in China, large gestures/movements are generally discouraged. The way in which individuals hold chopsticks, greet others, and pour tea are all mediums through which people can offend others.

In comparison, European gestures (specifically those of France and Italy) are very loud and exaggerated. They are intended to offend others and make a public statement. Based on the gestures we’ve researched, we can therefore see that Asian gestures/mannerisms are far less pronounced and obscene than those of European countries.

We still did learn, however, that a universal hand gesture among all of our countries is the middle finger (with some variations). This suggests that the emotional anger and hatred that characterizes this gesture is felt globally.

We also noted that there were several gestures collected that depending on context, could have a different meaning and connotation. For example, bringing your pointer finger to your mouth could greatly upset someone if they believe you are telling them, “Shut up.” However, this is a common gesture seen in many libraries, as it is also a way of telling someone to, “lower their voice or be more quiet.” Another such example was raising your pinky to flip someone off, however many little kids also use this gesture, as they believe it to be a “fancy” gesture. Therefore we note the context and social cues are important to pay attention to when using or receiving gestures as it can greatly change the meaning.

Tags/Keywords: Gestures, Insults, Rude, Negative, Hand Gestures, Insulting Gestures