Be careful when you select photographs or graphics of common American gestures for your international documents. User guides and operating manuals often include them as a substitute for text, to break up long paragraphs, and to make the copy easier to understand. A word of caution here: these images may be meaningless or offensive in other countries.
- Thumbs Up - Steer clear of photos of this sign if you are selling in the Middle East or Southeast Asia. Americans use this to show approval or support, but it is the equivalent of a middle finger salute in other areas. In Thailand, it is considered to be a childish gesture similar to sticking out your tongue.
- "V" Sign - Winston Churchill made this hand gesture to celebrate victory. George W. H. Bush learned that can be an insult in many parts of the English-speaking world after he used it in front of a group of Australian farmers.
- The "Okay" Sign - A circle made with the thumb and the index finger is definitely not okay in many parts of the world. In France, it means something is worthless, in Japan it signifies money, and in Venezuela it is used to question someone's masculinity.
- Crossed Fingers - A photograph of this will bring you no luck in Viet Nam where it is considered an obscene gesture.
- Bull Horns - You won't hook any new business if you use a picture of a raised index and pinkie fingers in Italy. This insult means that someone's wife is being unfaithful.
Image courtesy of Joe Lodge.