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Naughty Things to Do With Your Hands in Korea

November 14, 2013


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How many LOOOONG time Nasties here now? Remember when we were filming in our first apartment in Korea, back in Bucheon? Do you remember this really old video of ours explaining Korean Hand Gestures?

Whoa, that’s an old video. So, we’re not going to talk about the hand gestures for politeness. We’ll make you suffer and watch that old video. Buahaha! Oh man, we were so uncomfortable on camera back then. I can’t even watch that video it’s so slooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. We’re far more shameless now. And Martina looks so…professional in that video! Now she is happily pink haired and channeling 80s rock bands. Ah…where did we go wrong?

Anyhow, there are just a few more hand gestures that we want to talk about. The first is a fairly self-explanatory one, the Perpendicular Forearms of DOOM! Oh? You don’t know it by its name? If you visited Korea before, and you aren’t Korean or Asian looking, you probably have seen people do it to you when they want to say that they don’t have something in stock or that they’re not open. They’ll cross their arms in order to say no. Not sure why they just don’t say no, and why the arm gesture is necessary, but you’ll see it in Korea a lot and we often chuckle about it. We chuckle about it but it has become part of our normal hand gesture movements now. So even when two foreigners are talking to each other, we’ll often throw up the huge X sign without even knowing it. It gets rather embarrassing when you visit back home and you’re throwing up X’s to unsuspecting people just to say “no”. Do you want whipped cream on your hot chocolate? “NO thanks!!!! *giant x*” Slowly creeps away…Korea will change you man.

Another gesture we wanted to mention was how the typical handshake has changed in Korea. The placing of the left hand on your right wrist or forearm for politeness (which we actually mentioned in our old hand gesture video) is awkwardly used when shaking hands with someone. This is something I really had to teach my students to not do. Shaking someone’s hand is something people don’t really do in Korea, they usually just bow or do a polite head nod. But if they’re meeting with foreigners, especially in a business situation, the handshake hand might have to happen. But it often comes out with an awkward left hand place on the the right arm while hand shaking. It’s like the polite drink pouring meets the polite object giving mushed into a handshake. If you’ve lived in Korea you’re totally used to this, but if you aren’t from Korea and someone does it to you it gives you a kindof weird first impression, like you’re caressing your own arm or closing up in fear. Even for us when we shake hands with someone in Korea it’s hard to break that habit because we don’t want to insult them by NOT including the hand but then again, it was never supposed to be there to begin with. So we’re kindof in a sticky situation! For some of you that have met us before in Korea, we 100% did the awkward pigeon head bob of “nice meeting you” that comes with living in Korea (and I’m sure Japan) for a while.

On the cuter side, you might notice the way Korean people pose for pictures includes a lot of hand gestures. There is the “V” with your fingers that looks like a peace sign but it doesn’t actually mean peace. I heard it’s V for Victory kindof stolen from manga and anime posing after a victorious battle but I’ve also heard lots of other stories to explain it. One that might seem baffling is what I call the hamster pose. You put your hands into fists and jam them up against your cheeks like you’re trying to dig out secret nuts and seeds. ლ(╹ε╹ლ) It’s called “BuWING BuWING” 뿌잉뿌잉 and although there isn’t a “W” in that word you kindof of say it quickly so that it sounds like “BOOINGBOOING” or “BuWINGbUWING!”. I personally can’t break the habit of using as many hand gestures as possible when in photos because, gosh darn, it just makes them look so much more fun even if it makes me look like an idiot. Note the attached photo of me looking like an idiot.

IMG 5929

It’s supposed to be a very cute gesture but I theorize it is popular because many young Korean people like to cover their cheeks when they take picture in an attempt to make their face look smaller. This bizarre “my face is so big and your face is so small” concept really confuses me because Korean people have lovely small faces. Yet I’m so often said to have a small face…and they jam their fist into my face to prove that indeed, my face is the size of a fist. Oh OH we totally talked about that YOUR FACE IS SO SMALL fist to the face along with the ORRRRIIGOOOONNALLLL hand slapping gesture that Simon learned from his students in a different TL;DR!! If you haven’t learned about those two, you can view it here.

So that’s it for some of the gestures we’ve seen. If you can think of anymore that we haven’t mentioned please share in the comment section! Also, I want to know your country’s hand gestures as well because there are so many that overlap and so many that are TOTALLY different!



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