Counting by Hand

images-2 by Karen Topakian  

Resorting to hand gestures when you are traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language makes sense. But you’ve got to know the rules.

A new study from the University of Alberta tells us that hand gestures aren’t as universal as one might think.  

For example, if you were indicating the number of beers you would like to order in Germany, start with your thumb not your index finger. For starters, you will confuse the server, not receive the number of drinks you want and you will surely be spotted as a non-native. Which in some circumstances could prove injurious to your health.

When an English army officer in the new Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds poses as a German SS captain, he orders drinks without using his thumb to indicate the number requested. Resulting in his death.

As a child, my father taught me how to cut and eat my meat the European way: holding the knife in my right hand, the fork in my left then retaining the fork in my left hand to eat, tines facing down.

The Army Air Corps taught him this potential life-saving lesson before he flew missions over Germany.

He said he was preparing me in case I got caught behind enemy lines. In Cranston, Rhode Island.

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