Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Further Gesture

An occasionally important gesture back in the UK is the eye roll; it's useful to be able to catch a private moment with another person and express some disbelief and something a third person present is doing or telling you, of course, not letting that third person see you. It's taken this long but I've just discovered they don't have this gesture in Korea. Now I can roll my eyes at some of the things that happen here with impunity.

A gesture the Koreans do have, and frequently use, but we don't, is holding up a hand with the index finger on the thumb to form a circle. It means OK here, or it is used to symbolise money. If Wikipedia is to be believed it also means OK in the US and most of Europe, but not Germany or Brazil where it refers to a posterior part of human anatomy thus inferring that the person the gesture is aimed at, is one. Either the UK is with Germany on this one, or it's just the company I used to keep, but every time I get one of those circle gestures pointed at me here I have to remember not to react with a shocked look.

Another cultural oddity is that in the UK raising the first and second fingers in a V-shape, with the hand facing towards the body, is an insult similar to the more universally known one-finger salute, but in Korea I often get the this when I'm being asked if I want two of something. In a more conventional orientation, the V-sign can also mean 'peace' and in a somewhat bizarre gesture of friendship or drunkenness I've also had a couple of Koreans come up to me with their fingers thus and yell "peesu!". It's clearly a sign of great courage to shout peesu to a Westerner with your friends watching, but it's really not that brave because I don't bite. Often.


Mosher said...

If you dive, the thumb/finger circle thing internationally means "OK". Sticking your thumb up means "I'm going up" so you don't use it to indicate that you're fine while underwater - gets confusing.

As for the peace thing, why do *all* Asians seem to do this in photos? I've asked Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais and Japanese and none of them can explain why. They just... do!

Incidentally, may be in Korea next year... currently considering doing the Trans-Siberian from St Petersburg down to China via Mongolia and then down into South Korea. Will keep you informed.

Mike said...

A Japanese person once explained to me why they make that V-sign in all their photos, the explanation made sense - but it was rather dull so I've long since forgotten it... I looked into it since but I don't think there's a definitive answer.

Look forward to seeing you here if you make it to Korea - assuming I'm still here of course!

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