Understanding head and hand gestures in India

#1 Apr 30th, 2003, 05:23
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#1
OK, I'm no expert and I don't really know whether they are universally given and understood throughout India, so could use some help.

for north americans,and i think a lot of europeans, an up and down movement of head generally indicates 'yes' or 'ok'. side to side - negative. The Indian equivalent of 'ok', 'yes', or 'i understand' is usually the head 'rocking movement' which is hard to explain and often accompanied by a verbal 'ah cha' (but I don't really see this used much in Goa). the negative? -- not really sure.

hand gestures -- what does pointing in one direction while looking in another mean when you are asking directions?

-- the 'please come here' gesture as to a waiter -- is it the beconning upward index finger, or is it 'palm down' and the directional indication with all fingers. (are you supposed to hiss as well ? )

-- are there any 'rude' Indian hand gestures of which it would nice to be aware of?

???
#2 Apr 30th, 2003, 11:20
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A good Indian friend here in the US always smacks his tongue against the front of the roof of his mouth (the alveola) while rotating his hand and forearm fairly fast around the axis of the arm, (god, how do I describe this?), sort of like many westerners do when they mean "so-so", and lifting his head slightly in a snobbish way, making his eyes disappear (a little like the Greeks do to say "no"). To me it suggests "not at all, you sad excuse of a low life, get out of my face", except that I love this guy AND that he seems to get away with it with his Indian friends and other Americans as well.
Well...I used it in India with rickshaw drivers and other touts who were insistent, and it worked! It worked better than just saying no, and MUCH better than the silly Western habit of smiling while saying no!
We need an mpeg video for this...

As for rotating the head around a slightly tilted axis, which besides agreement can also be acknowledgement, affection, a tasty samosa, recognition, etc., I still do it after being back in the US over a month. It's catchy. Do we have a smily for this?
Last edited by Tomi; Apr 30th, 2003 at 21:08..
#3 Apr 30th, 2003, 14:29
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Tomi

Sorry, but I got a little bit shoked by your explanations

How about an mpeg video as you suggested??!

Just kidding.. next time in India I promise, I'll try it... Last time I realize that saying NO with a smile, not only didn't work but made me feel like a fool... personally, I reach out for my best angry face (when they harassme me) and trust me... I have a character!

Everybody though I was going mad... and finished by leaving me alone... jajaja. Thanx god , just had to do it a couple of times, surrounded by rickshaw drivers... one of them even tried to grab my butt
#4 May 5th, 2003, 04:20
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#4
>>rotating his hand and forearm fairly fast around the axis of the arm, (god, how do I describe this?), sort of like many westerners do when they mean "so-so"<<

This has always worked for me, especially to make beggars evaporate from my immediate vicinity. Does it help that I'm short, tan well, and wear salwar kameez? Maybe.
The map is not the territory. --Alfred Korzybski
#5 May 5th, 2003, 19:52
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#5
Not forgetting the gesture used to hail a cab, autorickshaw, or to get a bus to stop --->
...outstretched arm, palm downwards, the hand then "pats" the air as if patting a large, thick-haired dog.

-m2- I've always hissed when summoning a waiter in a restaurant (I think it's best not to try a hand gesture if you're unsure of it), following everyone else's lead. It's easier for Westerners to make this sound than the short, puckered lip "kiss" also used for the purpose!
#6 May 22nd, 2003, 11:59
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#6
hehe, This is such an interesting discussion. Indians are masters at body movements. Shake of head can mean yes or no, depending on angle of tilt. The more it tilts on the side, the more vehement the yes. No tilt with head shake means no.

Your hand-shake, head roll friend is just an extremely expressive indian (which makes him like abt 50% of the population).

The best way to call a waiter is to catch his eye and shout your order.
>
#7 May 23rd, 2003, 05:38
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I think we need some more input from Indians for instance, what is the best way to call a waiter in a government-run restaurant? -- eye contact is generally impossible as the 'the art of avoiding eyecontact' is one of the first lessons a civil servant learns.
#8 May 23rd, 2003, 08:59
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#8
We are talking India here, but I remember when I first traveled, in the late 60s, Europe was just as indolent and customer unfriendly as bureaucratic government institutions in India are today (I'll get flamed for this ), at least when compared to the US and Canada.
Now, something I did once (DISCLAIMER: I'm not advocating what I did and I'm actually a little embarrassed in retrospect) in southern France, I think it was in Aix-en-Provence, after being ignored for 10 minutes at a bank, is that I purposely broke an ashtray by pushing it off the counter. It was heavy and it shattered into little pieces, making a huge noise. At that point everybody was mobilized into emergency mode, flapping arms, rustling skirts, taking care of the disaster, and... they noticed me. I humbly apologized (what a slime bucket I was) and they took care of me immediately. I cashed my check, they all smiled (I was a slime bucket, but I was a cute slime bucket), and I went out happy and wrote postcards about it.
Can anybody recast this technique into a milder, less destructive and more acceptable, form?
#9 May 23rd, 2003, 09:14
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Well, you could try dropping something heavy that's not breakable. <g>
#10 May 23rd, 2003, 11:34
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#10
I'm an Indian. I would suggest that in order to attract a waiter's attention (esp in government run hotels), look at him and call out "bhaiyya" (brother) or preferably "bhaisaab" (brother sir). I normally pick one waiter, call out to him, put up my index finger in the air (as if to indicate 'one minute please'), and nod my head - this usually brings him to my table. Of course, people in South India may not understand the bhaiyya stuff as it is in Hindi, but it works in the North. You could say "Excuse me" in the South and do the rest of the actions described above.
In Bombay, in the regular restaurants (as in, not five star), shout "boss" to the nearest waiter. Yes, it is the English term, but does not have the usual meaning - just an accepted way of calling the waiter. So, next time you see your boss at work, think about what the word stands for in Bombay :-)
#11 May 23rd, 2003, 12:33
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#11
Tomi, you can drop anything in the restaurants of India and nothing will break, that is why they use steel. Or haven't you noticed the many times dented steel jug, glass and plates?
As for civil servants, if we knew what to do abt them we wld have done it already
BTW, if you call someone "brother" down south, most likely will be a retort, "i'm not ure godd**n brother, so watch it". Shouting to make yourself heard is a better option or (if thats not your style) look helplessly at your neighbour and he/she'll help.
#12 Oct 31st, 2003, 07:19
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#12
The head tilt is truly fabulous for the working woman. Boss asks "Did you get the project done?" and the head tilt means Yes OR No, but I understand that you want me to start it and I'll get on it right away. Beautifully flexible!
#13 Oct 31st, 2003, 08:58
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#13
Do Indians count differently using their fingers than westerners do? I've experienced quite some confusion in e.g. China & Taiwan, where the hand/finger signals used to express numbers are not (always) understood ...
#14 Oct 31st, 2003, 09:14
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#14
In Hindi speaking areas, a lady should look over at the waiter, smile, beckon with her finger, and when he comes over, say sweetly and politely, "Bhaisahib (a lady never says "Bhai" only, that is for men)..." and then go on with your order. The object is to enslave the waiter with your sweetness and politeness so you will be ensured special treatment on subsequent occasions.

A lady in India should always look like a lady (neat salwar kameez or saris). This is because Indians are very into appearance and respect those also into appearance (as in apparel and jewellery, which does not have to be expensive but should look nice).

If another woman asks you, "Do you think he/they are handsome", waggle your head and eyebrows and smile, looking down, as if contemplating a lovely vision, and say, "Oh yes, very handsome!"
Last edited by Samsara; Nov 1st, 2003 at 17:27..
#15 Nov 7th, 2003, 23:35
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#15
I can't wait to learn the head waggle! Maybe we can get a video of that at the same time as the " rotating hand, like westerners say so-so" that means no. That way us folks who are going for the first time can see what it really looks like.
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