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A Handbook For Flipping The Bird All Over The World

Traveling to a place where you don’t know the language? No problem. Here’s a foolproof guide to causing offense without consulting Berlitz.

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We New Yorkers are accustomed to risking life and limb to cross the street, but sometimes the offense of getting cut off by a wayward taxi is enough to turn even the most mild-mannered among us into bird-flipping maniacs. But given such a scenario, what would be the appropriate gestural response in, say, Paris, Beirut, or Mumbai? Let Rude Hand Gestures of the World, a new book by Romana Lefevre, be your guide for those situations when words fall short.

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Here, we present a sample from the book’s 50 examples, ranging from ways to curse out a perfect stranger to expressing sexual interest. A word of advice: If unsure of which gesture to use, the safest diplomatic approach may be to avoid communicating with your hands altogether, as meanings aren’t universal: The seemingly benign sign for OK (thumb and index finger forming an “O” with the other digits splayed), for instance, isn’t a sign of approval in such nations as Greece, Italy, Paraguay, and Turkey, where it refers to a delicate orifice–exactly which one depends on the region. So on that note, enjoy!

Click here to buy Rude Hand Gestures of the World.

[Images from Rude Hand Gestures of the World, by Romana Lefevre, photographs by Daniel Castro, published by Chronicle Books]

About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.

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