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!

  1. Pulling on your eye like that- minus the tongue- means “mon oeil” which pretty much means I don’t believe or I call bullshit.

  2. You know how people (idols) will make L’s with their fingers and then place them on their chins? That means “lesbian” in ASL (American sign language). It makes me giggle. And proof: http://www.signingsavvy.com/sign/LESBIAN

  3. MY FACE IS UNEVEN!!!!!!!!oh Martina. I remember that tldr.

  4. I think what SooZee said is correct because when I watched Level with Me Nicole talked about doing that tongue nose thing to get rid of the pins and needles when you legs fall asleep:


    at the 9 minute mark

  5. That’s something we want to look into more before we talk about it, but it’s a really interesting topic, for sure. We just read something where, supposedly, Korea has the highest debt per person, or something like that?

  6. None of your comments were deleted? :3

    Btw, next time you want to give a tip…don’t use capslock :p

  7. My friends and I make a heart with our hands and hold it up to our chest to show that we care about each other! We also do a “hang loose,” symbol which is keeping the finger next to the pinkie and the middle finger folded while the pinkie and index stand out and the thumb just does it’s thing. People do that a lot in photos, idk if it is just a west coast US thing but I see it in photos all the time.

  8. When I went to Africa they also did the same handshake you described above. We were told it came from an old custom to show you were coming friendly and that there was no weapon in your other hand. Is this maybe the same in Korea?

  9. OOOOOOOOOOHHH. SO THAT’S WHAT THAT MEANS. This is so enlightening. I’m korean but grew up in the US and when I was a little kid I was practicing sign language that we learned at school. I showed my dad some letters without really explaining to him the context and when I did the sign for the letter “t” (which is the thumb btwn two fingers) he shot me down saying never do that again. At the time he said it’s like the middle finger in korea. But now I understand :O

  10. Something I saw in Japan and Korea is putting the peace or “V” sign in front of your mouth. Girls do it to be cute, but I wanna tell them it means that they are “eating out” a girl…… please stop, it makes me cringe.

  11. The funny think with Korean giant X is I do kinda the same thing but smaller version – just with my palms, and that giant X when someone is really stupid not to understand the smaller one! LOL
    …but I have no idea if it’s a common gesture or it’s just me doing that (I’ve been doing it long before I got into KPOP as well as nodding while greeting ppl XD)

  12. Greek rise a relaxed fist with your point finger sticking up in class not the open palm~^^

  13. It’s called “figa” in Russian too! ;P
    I explained what it means above~^^

  14. In Russia it’s done as a reply to when someone asks you to do smth or to give him/her smth, and you do not want to do/give that to that person (but not with srtangers lol) like in “Nah~ I’m not doing it/do it yourself”
    so it’s nothing bad! ;P
    And I ALWAYS do it with my family/friends! Gotta be careful if I ever come to Korea! Lmao

  15. Its the same in Malaysia. My cousin once did it by accident in the markets when we were with Grandma, and she got told not to do it, especially in the market. Apparently it looks like a ladypart/boypart? lol. :p

  16. I actually the gesture use in this picture for france means Ok or perfect in France too

  17. Really? That’s interesting… In my country you either raise your hand ( show all 5 fingers ) or you use the peace sign.

  18. Hm… I hope i describe it well…
    So, in Croatia:
    ¤ the middle finger means the same insulting thing ( f*** you )
    ¤ the hand gesture which, Laura Pinto mentioned in a comment , means the same thing as the middle finger ( and some people may use the middle finger instead of the first )
    ¤ when you rub your thumb with your index and middle finger, it’s like a sign for money
    [ example: ” My grandmother is comming tomorrow ” *does the gesture* – I basicly told you that she’s going to give me money]

    ¤ the thing Simon and Martina did with their eyes and index fingers is like mocking the person next to you that they lost and you won something
    ¤ when you form your hand into a fist with the thumb up , it’s basicly good ( similar thing is when you make a circle with your thumb and index finger and the rest of the fingers are stretched-out -> it’s like ” ok ! / good ! ” )

    ¤ when you form your hand into a fist with the thumb down, it means “fail ” in a way
    ¤ the peace sign means peace…I guess…
    ¤ when the palms of your hands are open and you shrug with your shoulders, it means ” I don’t know ”
    ¤ there is a motion with your hand and chin : if you move your hand down your chin ( kinda like an old man is going with a hand through his beard ) – it means something along the lines of ” (it’s) a piece of cake ”

    [ example: a friend asks me how my exam went and i do that motion, it basicly means that it went smoothly ] – you do it once thou…
    ¤ there’s the fingers-crossed gesture
    [ example: *does the gesture and mumbles or thinks* ” please don’t ask me , please don’t ask me, please don’t ask me ,…” ] – i used it alot back when i went to school…

    That’s all i can think of…

  19. I saw that country doesn’t count the same way with their hands.

    look here for the explanation :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finger_counting#Cultural_differences
    and there for the picture : http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compter_sur_ses_doigts

  20. In Norway(and most likely elsewhere too) the pinkie-only gesture is used to degrade or imasculate men. It means things like they have a small penis, they’re weak or cowardly. Tell that to the guys that go round banging their lovers and telling their friends about it afterwards 8)

  21. Martina, that photo of you is so cute!! And lawl at “Nani nani boo boo” ><

  22. My cousin from Mexico points up her index and pinky fingers (folding the other fingers down) and throws it back while saying Cuernos (horns). Is that kind of the same thing?

  23. This could come in handy if you travel to Mexico again.


  24. Ahhhhh now I know what the hand eye pull gesture means :)

  25. my mum told me the finger crossing in vietnam means vagina

  26. Hi Simon and Martina. I know this is a totally random question but I was wondering, do you get calls from tele-marketers? Here in Australia we tend to get at least one a month :p Sometimes the calls are from foreigners, sometimes from other Ausies. So what is the tele-marketer situation like in Korea? and if you do get calls from them how do you deal with those calls?

  27. I’m a big fan of the z-snap. I have this mental image of Key doing it after he pulls off a sweet dance move.

  28. oh I dunno if that’s actually true in any place, but I think (JUST THINK) that in Russia when you pull down your lower eye lid (?) and make like a >_> face it’s like “please…” like you know “oh shut up stawp talking bull” sort of annoyed sarcastic sort of gesture/face. Also that’s super random and not really related (I actually wonder if there’s something similar in Korea) but you know how Italians are “known” (stereotyped?) to hold their fingers together while they talk? In Israel that’s the gesture for “wait just a second” I remember when I moved to Russia and did that to my friends instead of calling out “wait a sec!” they would totally ignore me and I’d be like “wtf maaan? I gestured you to wait!” and they were like “wut?” so yeaaa. Is there a similar gesture in Korea? I know that same gesture means a bad word in like Thailand or Singapore… *doesn’t know her gestures well*

  29. My dad uses the OK sign a lot. And then he went on a business trip to Brazil. It was kind of awkward…

  30. lol… yeah… I was like “stop doing it! please!!!” rsrsrs… it reminded me of the silly boys at my school…

  31. OMG my checks hurt from smiling!!! Loved this video, needed it today, one long hella of a day ><

  32. At my high school (in the US), when you experienced something awkward, you would tug at the front of your shirt (just with two fingers), like it suddenly got warm in the room and you’re trying to fan yourself, I guess? I never saw anyone do this outside my school, and haven’t seen it anywhere since. Everyone else just did the Awkward Turtle.

  33. I was going to mention that one :D

  34. Bbuing bbuing started from Krystal I think in high kick 3 ^^

  35. I have a question for the next TL;DR. What’s the deal with the “missing the last ferry” thing in k-dramas? Is this a common excuse for not coming home at night and thereby implying one was out “hooking up”? – Just curious…
    BTW. The touching tongue nose thing was taught to me at a very early age to get rid of pins and needles when my foot would fall alseep. It’s as Korean a fan death!

  36. it’s a “manlier” version of a heart. It’s the same as this

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