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Top 10 Gestures In German

By Felix

Updated on April 05, 2023

Germans are known for their use of body language to express various emotions and messages. Here are some common hand gestures you may come across in Germany:

  1. Pressing Your Thumbs: Unlike many other gestures of disagreement, pressing your thumbs is a gesture of support. To do this, extend both fists in front of your body and add a quick thumb movement to emphasize the action. It symbolizes wishing someone good luck and shows your encouragement.

  2. Thumbs Up: This gesture has become universal since the rise of social media. It signifies agreement or enthusiasm. Simply extend your upright fist and raise your thumb. However, be cautious when using this gesture in a German bar, as Germans use the thumb to represent the number “one” when counting on their hands. A thumbs-up to a bartender might lead to another drink being served!

  3. Shoulder Shrug: When faced with uncertainty or a situation that cannot be remedied, Germans often use the shoulder shrug. Draw both shoulders up towards your ears and extend your arms to the sides with palms facing up. This gesture can convey meanings such as “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.” It can also express disappointment or disbelief.

  4. Tapping Your Forehead: When an unsmiling German taps their forehead or temple with their index finger, it implies that the person they are interacting with is crazy. This gesture is often accompanied by a serious facial expression, indicating that the conversation is not worth pursuing. However, among friends, this gesture can be used playfully and may even be seen as a compliment.

  5. Hand on Forehead: Placing a hand on the forehead and covering part of the brow indicates shame or embarrassment. It can be used to express personal regret or to indicate that someone else’s actions were cringe-worthy or disappointing. Similarly, quickly slapping the open palm to the middle of the forehead signifies amazement or disbelief.

  6. Pulling Your Lower Eyelid: If a German friend pulls down their lower eyelid with their index finger, it doesn’t mean they need medical attention. This gesture signifies disbelief or skepticism. It implies that they are not convinced or are skeptical about something they have heard or witnessed.

  7. Forearm Jerk: The forearm jerk is a highly offensive gesture in Germany and should be avoided. It involves bringing the right forearm up with a clenched fist while the left palm slaps the right biceps. This gesture carries the same offensive meaning as the middle finger but on a different scale.

  8. A-Okay Gesture: The A-Okay gesture, formed by making a circle with the thumb and index finger, should be avoided in Germany. In German culture, this gesture resembles a part of the anatomy and is considered offensive, similar to calling someone an “asshole.” Furthermore, this gesture has also been associated with hate speech in Germany, making it even more important to refrain from using it.

  9. Finger Pointing: Pointing your index finger at someone in a confrontational manner is considered rude in Germany. It can be seen as aggressive and disrespectful. Instead, use open-handed gestures or verbal communication to express your point of view.

  10. Hand on Heart: Placing your hand over your heart is a gesture of sincerity and honesty in Germany. It can be used to express genuine emotions, gratitude, or a heartfelt apology. This gesture shows that you are speaking from the depths of your emotions and can be particularly impactful during personal or important conversations.

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