There has been much written about common hand gestures - a fair amount of it contradictory and some it is just plain nonsense. With this in mind, there are several important considerations that should be noted.
A) It is true that not all hand gestures mean quite the same thing in different parts of the world. Sometimes this is more about context and variations on the gesture (thus making it a new gesture) rather than purely different meanings. For example, the thumbs up gesture is always rude if the hand is held down and the extended thumb is "jabbed" forwarded. In this case it means "up your ..." Well you get the idea. Still, many authorities claim that in some countries, such as Brazil, any kind of thumbs up gesture is considered vulgar.
B) Many of the stories in circulation about how certain hand gestures originated are very doubtful at best. We have referred to some of the more sensible ones out of general interest but in no way claim that these "origins" are infallible.
C) Gestures that are insulting do very often have sexual connotations. Why Humans should do this is a mystery. Perhaps the intensity felt for sex is an "enhancer' of the insult - who knows for sure.
D) The quicker and more emphatic the gesture the more likely it is to be perceived as aggressive. How a signal is used is often as important as the signal itself.
What is important is that it is very easy for hand signals to be misinterpreted even amongst close friends. However, as television and the internet spreads common programming amongst different cultures so increasingly diverse groups of people will recognise the meaning and the context of at least the more common hand gestures. Not all dictionaries agree on the precise meanings of words and not all experts agree on the precise meanings of hand gestures. This section attempts to provide a basic consensus but should not be seen as the absolute and final word on the subject - It is a guide and no more.
This is the first page of several dedicated to hand gestures and features a comprehensive range from around the world. We've probably missed some so feel free to contact us if you know of any more.