Q: I always get confused when my Korean friends gesture for me to “come here” — it looks like they’re shooing me away! What’s up with that?
A: Words aren’t the only thing that can get lost in translation.
Much like a dog’s bark translates differently in different languages, there is no international gesture for “get over here!” Here’s a handy guide:
In the U.S. (just to review), you gesture “come here” by raising your hand to chest level or so, palm facing you and fingers up, and waving to yourself by bending your fingers.
But in South Korea, it may seem upside-down to a newcomer. Your palm still faces you, but your fingers point downward and you wave at yourself using your whole hand. It can be uncomfortably similar to what Americans know as the a “shoo” gesture. But now you know better.
In Japan, you beckon someone by raising your hand and pointing your palm downward. With your fingers pointing away from you, you alternately flatten your hand and bend your fingers toward you until your object has come hither.
While some gestures are the same the world over, others vary, so you just have to look and learn.
Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail Stacy Chandler at: firstname.lastname@example.org.