327 COMMENTS

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!

ToFebruary
  1. In Israel (and possibly Eastern Europe as well) the pulling down below your eye means “bullshit”. Like “Oh, you’re bullshitting me *pull down below eye”. Usually though we do this with a knowing look on our face as opposed to sticking our tongue out…

  2. Shinhwa was on Gag Concert and Minwoo did a hand gesture of an upside down okay sign over his heart. What does that mean?

  3. Raine

    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

  4. Pukinbaby Miler

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

  5. andrea penelope

    hellooooo ^_^ My question may sound a little strange, but I’d like to know about funerals in Korea and what are the differences between American

  6. Rukie Andrei

    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:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtT5cgd2UuM

    at the 9 minute mark

  7. andrea penelope

    hellooooo ^_^ My question may sound a little strange, but I’d like to know about funerals in Korea and what are the differences between American

  8. ashley winbush

    I will post this everywhere! Bwahahahaha!!

    Can you do a TL;DR on loan sharks and loan debt in Korea? It seems every
    drama brings up the topic at least once on the poor character thinking
    or needing to pull out a loan in order to get by. Is that common? Are
    their really these gangsta loan guys lurking in villages ready to beat
    someone up for money???

  9. Pink_Candy

    Hey a suggestion for the next Tl:dr:
    How are transfer students treated in Korea, what if your a foreigner moving to S.Korea or an Asian that has been living in a foreigner country? How are you treated and everything else,like friends, communication,etc.
    Thank you for reading! o<

  10. Did you ever go ask Soozee what “my face is uneven” was supposed to mean?

  11. IndecisiveKPOPer

    What are some Korean myths? I’m just reaaalllyyyyy curious because every country has their own myths and I just wanted to know about some in Korea~THANKS!! :3

  12. I’ve only seen kids (middle school and some high schools boys) do this, doesn’t have a name and it doesn’t really mean anything but if you look at it they’ll make fun of you. Does this mean anything anywhere else?

  13. you guys are psychic, the newest episode of 1994, episode 9, had one of the hand gestures. The telephone hand gesture, looks like..haha!

  14. FYI and as a person who have work in the cafe, the Perpendicular Forearms of DOOM was used when we are not allowed to directly say “no.” For example, I was taught to use this sign when I was working in the cafe and making the coffee simply because 1) my spit can go into the coffee that I was making during the conversation, and 2) saying “no” usually sound quite rude but I was not allowed to spend much time to explain the reason. :)

  15. Savanah Talley

    hermergersh!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was just watching the latest episode of reply 1994, and one of the characters was going to do the really rude sign to mean she wasn’t lying, (it was mentioned that a girl shouldn’t know what that was haha) and I figured it out and it made sense!!!! I did a happy dance! thanks you guys!!! wasn’t expecting to be able to use that knowledge right away but I did! :D I feel so accomplished. ^^

  16. sonja corterier

    Germany: the pulling down your eye indicates that the person that is speaking doesn’t believe what they are recounting. the *rude* gesture “thumb in mouth and pinkie on forehead* is something which is strikingly similar to the ed pose of a hand gesture for *give me something to drink* or * let’s go drinking’ or basically anything that you can signal by suggesting you need a bottle to drink from, signifying *one shot* from a bottle* (*auf EX*). In fact I do use that gesture normally..so I should make sure I didn#t freak out any of my Korean friends with that O.o :P

  17. Mary Sanabria

    My comment was just deleted? D:
    said: why Korean girls cover their mouth when laughing loud? especially talking to men. Did makes their look adorable or is just a gesture of respect?. And other nonsense. Why cover their legs with blankets? Why would wear ridiculously short skirts then?

  18. 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.

  19. Brady Keefe

    So what do koreans think of other Asian cultures? Like, do they have any old ill feelings towards each other or any racism?

  20. chuckthegirl

    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?

  21. The “okay” sign is very offensive in Turkey and it means you are gay.

    I wondered why and searched about the meaning. Lol the okay sign refers to the…ahm…dirty body part and it means that you used it so much (means: two men have sex) that it’s already so big.

    i hope i could explain it well and you understand what i mean (since my english is not that good)

    edit: “In Venezuela, as well as Turkey, it is a very offensive gesture, regarded as a reference to homosexuality, and reflecting a wider than usual (due to anal sex) anus of a homosexual man.”

  22. With my personality though, there’s no awkward handshake of doom. When I meet my friends from my Korea for the first time, we hug, yell and hit each other lovingly like we are brothers and sisters. Most of my friends of my friends from Korea are guys that have known me for years so it’s ok if we do that! LOL. xDD With my more quieter and polite guy friends, a simple hug is all that needs to be done. ^^ The last korean guy that gave me a handshake, ended up being a stiff butt hole. Omfg. I don’t behave well with stuffy guys. The whole bbooing bbooing thing confused the hell out of me. Like wtf. It got increasingly popular when Secret Garden got popular so I figured it was an SG thing. But when one of my friends told me, I caught on. Don’t worry Martina. I look equally stupid when I do it ROFL. I never get the small face thing. I always get told that I’m very tall. I guess being 5’6 is pretty tall for a girl. xD

  23. Erika Kalkofen
    Erika Kalkofen

    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.

  24. lmao. Oh my god. One of my Korean friends, when he was studying abroad in America at the time, was saying how small my face was and I’m like I think it’s normal and he’s just like “No! No!” and insisted it was smaller and then proceeded to put his hand in front of my face to prove his point. I don’t understand this test… I’m pretty sure there is hand out there that will cover your face, you just gotta believe. T^T

  25. Catalina Gómez P

    A face smaller than a fist? To whose fist is it compared to?? That is so confusing!!

  26. BLAQ Finiks

    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)

  27. Dodol Sahaja

    are there got a friendly halal/muslim restaurant? are korean open up bout muslim halal food/restaurant?

  28. Sanji_123

    the thing with the last finger in Greece if two people doing this and wrap the two fingers together means that they are best friends for ever …. so funny ..

  29. Hi Simon and Martina!

    I’ve been a viewer for your blog for some time and a short while ago I realised I was missing out on a great opportunity. My plan post graduation has always been to go into teaching but courses over here want me to have more classroom experience, I also have always wanted to see Korea. After about 6 months (yes I know, not the sharpest tool sometimes.) I realised I can kill two birds with one stone.

    So from my research so far I’m hoping to apply for a public school just as soon as I finish my 120 hour TESOl cert. We’ve found potential work my partner can do over there, and that’s the biggest hurdle for us if I’m honest and I’ve hit a dead end on a couple of questions, I know you’re very busy people but you seem to be quite honest and honest answers are what I need!

    TL;DR from here:

    Would a public school be happy for my partner to share the accommodation with me?/would the accommodation even be suitable or would we end up with having two properties?

    If my partner doesn’t get a job right away (as obviously he will be finding it more difficult) is he likely to be refused re-entry on a tourist visa if he can prove he doesn’t need to work because I can support him?

    At the moment the plan is I get a teaching job and he job hunt around where that is, would it be worth us doing this the other way around so he applies and I look for teaching near his work?

    We have guinea pigs, It looks like we can bring them over and take them back but is a bit of a mission and I am undecided if I want to put them through this, If we do would a public school let me keep guinea pigs in my housing? and also have either of you ever seen anywhere where we could buy food for them and hay?
    Apologies for the comment Hijack for Personal gain, but I don’t think moving halfway around the world should be taken lightly!

  30. I’m not sure is everyone in Finland even knows this one: you need to touch you ear with your finger, in finnish it means “kosken korvaa” and it’s also the name of finnish vodka! so basically it mean you want to drink vodka ;)

  31. what does it mean when in dramas the girl sometimes make this thing (pic below)? do people use it in real life often? I know you do Martina :)

    • Rahel Rockstroh

      When your doing this in Germany its also understood as signal for homosexuality (when you do this in front of guys its kind of an insult), thats what I have been told not so long ago and was really surprised (I’m german and didn’t know about this at all).

    • it’s means something like “hmm…what am I going to do now?” or if they are embarrassed to say something like “eeh…there is something i want to tell you/him”

  32. Miko Satou

    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…

  33. 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

  34. Saehee Park

    licking your finger and touching your nose is for cramps and when your legs are asleep its something moms tell their kids to do when they have cramps so when they’re waiting for the saliva to dry off of their nose (ick) and ignore their legs for a moment the cramp will disappear in a matter of time and the little kid will believe it is because of the magical saliva! it also means if a grown woman does that while they are sitting uncomfortably while their mom scolds them “please stop talking im getting cramps from sitting like this.” i’ve never seen the other hand motions though.

  35. Did you guys know how to speak some korean before you went there? Me and my husband just got sent to south korea for his work. We had 3 days notice so we don’t know the language at all and we’re in geoje so no one really knows english. We’re starving, lol.

  36. Grace Ellen

    I love the ear-grabbind hand gesture in Korea. When you pick something up that’s too hot, you’re supposed to grab your ears. Not sure why, but it’s super cute!

  37. Audhild Tjugen

    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)

  38. Vito Jackson

    Yeah, in Turkey it tottaly means, that you are accusing someone of being a homosexual and is considered very bad.

  39. Mary Sanabria

    Why Korean girls covering his mouth when laughing? I always see that in interviews

  40. Gracie グレイス

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

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