hand gestures home
I’ve noticed a whole ‘alphabet’ of hand gestures that are regularly used by locals - what do they all mean?
It’s a well-known, if slightly exagerrated, ‘fact’ that Italians speak with their hands, but the Spanish? Though people in this country don’t have the same reputation as their Mediterranean neighbours for communicative gesticulation, the hands—aside from being used to grip the handlebars of a speeding moto or remove the shell of a fresh langostina—are indeed used for the expression of all manner of sentiments.
As these gestures are, in many cases, used to replace concrete words or phrases (rather than to express more general emotions), many of them are highly prescribed—this is necessary to avoid any miscommunications that could lead to that universally-understood gesture, the slap in the face.
The following list comprises five of the most popular phrases in Spanish hand language:
1. rub thumb and forefinger together: variations on this one are quite common in other countries, so you might recognise a gesture meaning that something is expensive or someone is well-off.
2. run both your index and middle fingers down the side of your nose: this has the opposite meaning of the previous gesture—it’s the one to show that you’re flat broke.
3. group fingers together, pointing upwards, then open and shut them: ideal if you find yourself in a crowded market or a packed disco on a Saturday evening, this one indicates that a place is very busy and full.
4. gently slapping your cheek with your hand: literally this indicates that someone has ‘cara’ (face) and is used to mean that they have done something cheeky.
5. with your palm towards you, shake your hand up and down: your next-door neighbour’s won the lottery? This is the gesture to adopt to show your amazement.
Both communicative and grammar-free, this local language is well-worth mastering.