As Caribbean prepares to host Cricket World Cup: Common Gestures to Avoid

Sunrise, FL – They may be gestures that we use everyday to express our optimism, approval, or encouragement. The same gestures, though innocent to us, can mean different things around the world.

According to Simone Champagnie, Director of Business Development for SNC Destinations, a company specializing in intercultural training, “With people, cultures, and languages coming together for international events, this mix can create misunderstandings and disappointments that can get in the way of positive relationships.”

With just a year and a half to go, the Caribbean readies itself to welcome an anticipated 100,000 fans from 89 International Cricket Council (ICC) member countries, and 16 international teams. The unprecedented staging of Cricket World Cup 2007 in eight host nations, will give the region the opportunity to showcase its hospitality. “Caribbean people are known for their warmth and friendliness,” said the Jamaican-born executive, “we therefore need to be aware of common gestures of support that can unfortunately be misinterpreted and cause offense.”

Take for example the “thumbs up” gesture. Whereas it has a positive meaning for some cultures, it may be interpreted as an offensive gesture, much like “up yours”, in parts of West Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Bangladesh. Similarly is the A-OK sign, formed by making a circle with the thumb and index finger while raising the remaining fingers. The A-OK sign will be interpreted as “zero” in some cultures, but in others it is considered as sexual or vulgar.

Known as the sign for victory, peace, and defiance, the two-finger “V” gesture has caused much confusion, even for worldly statesmen. With the index and middle fingers raised and parted, the sign becomes offensive in the United Kingdom and Ireland if the palm is facing the body and the back of the hand is turned toward the recipient. In short, the gesture that another culture may use to request two items, such as two more beers, may be interpreted as severely as if one had used the middle-finger gesture.

With generational differences and the influence of pop culture, the use of traditional gestures in some cultures has shown decline. “Some visitors may in fact no longer find these gestures to be offensive,” added Champagnie, “but it is better that we get it right by erring on the side of caution”.

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