Established in 2000, our international etiquette school  in Manhattan, New York, NY offers  World-Class Business Etiquette training in international protocol, etiquette, and body language science. We deliver cross-cultural training in French, Russian, Spanish, and English to our clients across the globe.

Innocent Hand Gestures Can Be Offensive

It's often said that “actions speak louder than words.” While the phrase is usually employed as an admonition against hypocrisy, it's also true when referring to nonverbal communication. A surprising amount of interpersonal communication actually takes place through gesture, expression, and body language, rather than through words. The first piece of advice that a multicultural etiquette expert will offer to business executives and world travelers is that learning the language of an international business partner shows respect and facilitates communication. However, it's just as important to learn the nonverbal language cues of that business partner's culture, because hand gestures around the globe can vary dramatically in meaning. Surprisingly often, a gesture that is perfectly innocuous or even friendly in one culture can cause tremendous offense in another country. Avoiding these pitfalls is critical to cultivating a successful business relationship. 

One of the most well-known differences in body language across cultures involves the gesture known as the "peace sign" or "V for victory" in the United States, wherein the index and middle fingers are extended. Typically this gesture is made with the palm of the hand facing the viewer, and is recognized throughout much of the world as a positive sign. The orientation of the hand is very important, however; the same gesture made with the back of the hand facing the viewer is obscene and insulting, comparable to the extended middle finger throughout much of the English-speaking world outside of the United States.


Hand gestures



Body Language in 3 Steps




  • Avoid at all costs any type of stamping, pounding, or jabbing motions when interacting with others. You might come across as aggressive and angry person. 
  • Control your micro-expressions (inappropriate rolling of the eyes, looking away, or avoiding a direct eye contact)-- it could signal your lack of interest, especially when a speaker thinks he is sharing something important. 
  • Maintain positive and open body language at all times!


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Negative and mixed body language signals

Negative body language

Body language expert NYC explains hand gestures

Etiquette Expert New York Demonstrates Negative Body Language 

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