Popular travel website TripAdvisor is giving away 100 free T-Shirts to lucky visitors to their Japanese website. What’s the catch you might ask?  They are covered with hand gestures deemed obscene by other countries’ peoples.

The T-shirts are based on a TripGraphic (trip infographic) the company released which illustrates 12 hand gestures considered innocuous in Japan but may lead to bodily harm in other parts of the world.

It’s hard to verify the authenticity of these gestures without being a hardcore world traveler/anthropologist but they seem to cover a wide range of offensiveness.  Let’s have a look at the TripGraphic in English.

01. “This offensive gesture comes from an old act of throwing things at criminals with two fingers. (Greece)”

Already we’re off to a weird start methinks. This explanation smelled fishy so I researched it and in all of Googledom I couldn’t find any story matching this.  Perhaps a Greek person could clear the air here?


02. “This mocking and offensive gesture comes from a sexual expression. (Middle East, South Africa, South America, etc.)”

That one’s definitely good to know, but I wonder what Middle Eastern scuba divers do…


03. “By resembling the character for ‘zero’ this mocking and insulting gesture implies ‘uselessness.’ (France)”

So I guess this is not OK to use over there.


04. “This offensive gesture originally means to kill one’s opponent. (America, English, etc.)”

Well, this is probably true but I would worry about flashing this one around anywhere in North America.  People would probably think you didn’t like a movie and ignore you.


05. “In this insulting gesture, erecting the pinky finger symbolizes a pathetic person. (China)”

When I do that it symbolizes the popcorn stuck in my teeth and my intentions to remove it.


06. “People using this gesture resembling a sexual image are mocking and offending you. (America, England, etc.)”


Never really thought of it as a “sexual image” but I can vouch that it’s bad.  I can’t understand why it’s lower on the list than a “thumbs down” though.


07. “This crude, obscene gesture takes the image of genitals. (Turkey)”


Heeey, I always thought my uncle was playing the I-got-your-nose game. No wonder he kept doing it even when I was in high school… I have to see my therapist.


08. “This mocking gesture represents a weak baby goat’s horns. (Mediterranian)”

I can’t see the effectiveness in this one.  I’m not entirely sure I could take a baby goat in an unarmed fight, especially if it has horns.


09. “This offensive gesture simulates throwing dirt in someone’s face. (Greece)”

Good to know, but I reckon hurling your palm at someone’s face is a universally bad thing to do.


10. “This gesture has a sexual origin and mocks or insults others. (England, Australia, etc.)”

In North America, people don’t mind this so much.  It usually means you want two of something.


11. “This insulting gesture has sexual origins. (England)”

I wish I was able to put the Bevis and Butthead laugh into written form right now. Really?! The shocker made this list?  Granted it’s certainly not a clean gesture, but doing this in western country will probably just make people laugh at you.


12. “This gesture offends people by representing genitals. (Vietnam)”

Do Vietnamese people have twisty looking genitals like that?

There you have it.  Again, these explanations should be taken with a grain of salt as hand gestures’ histories and meanings are full of urban legends.

For readers outside of Japan, you can also note the opposite of this chart.  All of these gestures are more or less fine to do here.  I can vouch for that as I see so many people flinging around their middle fingers in Japan it’s like I’m on an LA freeway.

TripAdvisor is taking contest entries for the T-Shirts until the end of June.

Source: TripAdvisor  (Japanese)