Monday, May 29, 2006

You Mean You're Offended? Why??

I gave "the finger" to someone from Uganda. He looked at me and said, "What does that mean?" I said it was the worst gesture we can do in this country; you can get arrested for lifting up your middle finger and you can also get punched in the face for doing it. He thought that was pretty funny. "That does not mean anything where I live. But this," then he gave the 'thumbs up' sign, "is a very bad sign, very bad sign."

Uh-oh. I said to him, "If you do something really good, there is an excellent chance that someone will give you the 'thumbs up' and in our country, that means you did a good job. It is a nice gesture here, a very friendly thing. Don't go over and beat the person who did it."

I could just see an international incident happening somewhere in the future.

The "A-ok" signal (thumb and index finger rounded and touching, other fingers up and spread out) is equally good here but to a Frenchman it means what he has done is worthless. Worse, in parts of South America it means you are an asshole.

Visiting the Ivory Coast, in Africa? If you gals wear shorts, you will be hauled off to jail after they cover your legs, you shameless barelegged slut, corrupter of children. You don't have to be wearing a top, as the fact that you have breasts is of no particular interest; goes with being a woman. No big deal. Back here in the US of A, it's the other way around and don't try to tell either country their standards are wrong. It should be obvious -- even if it's not.

Each area has its own good and bad signs, its own taboo words and body parts, food you just don't eat, pets you don't keep. Nothing seems to match from culture to culture and it's so easy to cross the line. I wonder if that's why we often apologize in advance? Get it over with, just in case.

2 Comments:

Anonymous ruthc said...

I tend to cruise to some exotic parts of the world. I've often thought---and even suggested---that the cruiseline offer some guidelines on this very matter.
Still waiting for that to happen.

A woman traveling alone has a lot to remember about staying safe before she can start to enjoy herself.

May 29, 2006 1:38 PM  
Blogger Cold Josh Vail said...

In Germany, when you order a beer, you raise your thumb, as they count the thumb as #1, opposed to we, who begin at the index finger. So, I'd hold up my index finger and the server would show up with two brews.............which was fine with me.

June 02, 2006 4:27 PM  

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