Explanation of French Hand Gestures

Written by derek gonzales
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  • Introduction

    Explanation of French Hand Gestures

    Learning the French language can be challenging. Added to the challenge is learning the particular gestures used by the French. Gestures must be used with care. A few gestures that are considered acceptable in American society are considered rude to the French. For example, it is offensive in France to point or snap the fingers at others. Furthermore, once a gesture is learnt, it is important to know in what context it should be used. Some gestures can be used with anyone while others are reserved for only close friends.

    Gestures mean different things in different languages. (Christopher Robbins/Valueline/Getty Images)

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    Gestures to Use with Anyone

    To indicate that food is delicious, kiss the tip of your fingers and pretend to toss something into the air. When the French count on their fingers, they begin with their thumb. Adding the index finger, then, is two, and the middle finger is three. If you want to gesture that someone is asleep or that you are sleepy, rest one cheek against closed palms. A circle made with the tip of the finger and the thumb means "nothing." Squeeze the thumb and index finger together to show that something is close to perfection.

    When the French count on their hands, they begin with the thumb for number one. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

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    Gestures to Use with People You Know

    If you want to show you are frustrated or "fed up" with something, wave an open palm over the head with the palm parallel to the top of the head. Put your hand on top of your head to express that someone is true to his promise or if you are swearing to something. To say you are already finished with a task, cross your arms in front of your chest and then move them out away from your body.

    The French signal that means "I swear" is made by placing the hand on top of the head. (Baerbel Schmidt/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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    Gestures that Express Disapproval

    Because these gestures communicate insults, they should be used carefully so that no one is offended either by the idea or the gesture itself. Holding one's nose indicates that something smells bad. The French indicate that someone is crazy by pointing the index finger to the temple and twisting it. To gesture that someone is lazy, open the palm of one hand and act as if you are pulling something from it with the other hand. Brushing one cheek with the backside of the fingers indicates that someone or something is boring.

    The French show that something smells bad by holding their noses. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

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    Use with Care

    Use these gestures with care as they are considered familiar and should only be used with close friends. Say "let's get out of here" by holding your hands out with the palms down and smacking one hand onto the other. To tell someone that something is expensive, hold out your hand with your fingers and thumb touching, and rub your thumb across your fingertips. The French indicate that someone has had too much to drink by making a loose fist, holding it up to the nose and twisting the hand one way while tilting the head the opposite way.

    Before travelling to France, or any other foreign country, a tourist should be aware of the etiquette of that culture. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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