Gestures Speak Louder Than Words
The Polish city of Sosnowiec launched a campaign to encourage tourists from the French cities of Roubaix and Les Meraux, and Morocco’s Casablanca to visit the city. The campaign ran both on and offline and featured two young, attractive models seen to be gesturing in a positive way. The gestures, unlike in Poland where they have positive connotations, are highly offensive and can be considered sexually abusive in the Mediterranean and some Arab countries.
Behind the news:
Gestures are powerful communicators which sometimes seem universal, unrelated to language. After all, apes use them too!
But as we all now know thanks to the iconic HSBC “world’s local bank” campaign, gestures actually have different, very specific meanings in different places – an endless source of miscommunication, amusement and despair for the world traveller as well as global brands.
There are no dictionaries we know of that fully describe the meanings of cultural gestures, although Desmond Morris, a British anthropologist, had a go at it. He spent a year watching and filming Italians, and categorized each one with a drawing and a meaning. He also found that the amount of gesturing varies significantly from one culture to another, concluding that Italians use more specific gestures than any other people around the world.