Thursday, April 16, 2015

lessons // cultural physical gestures

I have been obsessing over reading expat blogs lately and loving the hilarious culture mixing stories and, honestly, how much I can relate to them. It's really fun to read something that isn't like what my life used to be back home, what my life could be like (again, at home in the US), or what I could imagine life as. It's stuff that we're going through right now, and it is quite the breath of fresh air. (Currently, I really resonating with this post, and definitely this one, and still laughing from reading this one.) Jamey and I seriously need more expat friends so they can tell us more funny stories like the ones we've experienced being in our host culture.

One of the things that I was recently laughing about was the differences in common physical mannerisms used here in Honduras in contrast to the ones used in the States that I was explaining in one of my English class lessons. Trust me, my friend that I was teaching was laughing just as hard as I was. I would describe a situation and ask her to show me how she would do whatever phrase without words. Knowing what her answers would be (very different than mine), I asked her to go first and said that I would show her the way I do it second. She was amazed at the results, simply because some things I did made absolutely no sense to her. She said "What are you doing? That means the same thing to you as what I just did?". Yes, the same thing.... just in different cultures.

So, I thought it would be fun to share a few Honduran physical mannerisms that were the topic of conversation, that over the last year and a half Jamey and I have learned to love to use here. We'll place the GIF before the description just for fun, so that you can try to guess what it is before you read about it. (Please excuse our not-so-high-quality GIF making. We put these together quickly!)

Example #1: The Lip Point

Thought it may seem like I'm blowing the most intense kiss ever to Jamey, I'm not. This is how Honduran's point! It's rude to point with your finger, unless whatever it is that you're talking about is rather far away. Instead, you purse your lips strongly and raise your chin in the general direction of the object. Sometimes it's not always extremely specific, but it can definitely get someone to look behind them or take another look more closely. It's extremely effective, and if done quickly, discrete as well.

Example #2: The Hand Slap

Now, yes, there has to be a better name for this one but, to me, it's not really able to be described in a few words. Though here it is show really fast and not exactly clear, what you do is put the tips of your thumb and middle finger together like you are going to snap with your index finger limp. Instead of snapping, you shake your hand rapidly, which causes you index finger to flap around and make a loud noise when it hits your hand. Jamey can actually do it well, but I still can't... mainly because I think my mind knows that my index finger might get injured and doesn't allow it to move like that! This motion is commonly done in moments where we might say "Ohhh ouch", "Ohhhhhhhhhh my GOSH", or "Holy crap!", like when someone says something that they shouldn't have, you paid a price for something way over the fair/reasonable price, etc. Again, very hard to explain but any Latino instantly recognizes it!

Example #3: The Elbow Tap

The elbow tap is another motion that requires absolutely no words, but carries a big meaning. If you tap you elbow like this, or maybe say something like "need a little oil for this spot?" while touching your elbow, this means you are calling someone tight, stingy, or a penny-pincher. Many people look to make jokes with this move.

Example #4: The "Come Here" Motion

So we're still trying to master this one, but to do a "come here" motion, you hold your arm out, make your wrist fall limp, then flop your hand up and down a little. Now, imagine this in contrast to our custom, which is to fold in our elbow, hold our hand upward, and move it away from us then towards us. My friend especially thinks the way we do it makes absolutely no sense to her. She laughed about our differences on this motion for a good 5 minutes and told me that ours looks like we are fanning ourselves!

We hope you enjoyed this post and our attempt to do this physical gestures correctly. Now imagine -- we have described here only physical gesture differences in culture!! There are so many other differences that you would never guess, that we will have to report on another day.


  1. All of these just made me miss Honduras soooooo bad!

  2. Loved reading this post! So interesting.