by Birgit Smidt Sneftrup and Bo Transbol, Denmark.
Greeks are known as champion gesture users in the Mediterranean. Their
hands, bodies and faces are rarely still and it sometimes seems possible
to get the gist of a conversation by watching it from 50 meters away.
Here are some gestures and interpretations:
Instead of shaking heads from side to side as we do, they have another
indescribable way of saying "No". This
is done by raising the entire head in a backwards movement and clicking
the tongue. Sometimes these movements are too subtle and quick, and you
can't be too sure that he/she's answered at all. You can repeat the question
again and again, and find he/she's been saying "No" from the
A slow down movement of the head to one side, slightly closing the eyes
as the head is lowered.
This gesture is indicated by the wawing of the hand, a kind of pawing of the air
with the fingers and the palm downwards, that looks to the non-Greek as though
he/she is either waving good-bye, or telling you to move back a few steps.
This can be confusing, because the further you move back, the more frantic
the gesture becomes.
"I want to tell you something"
This gesture is done by touching or patting the lower lip with the index finger, and can easily be misunderstood,
as it looks as if you are being told to be quiet. This gesture is often performed
immediately after the "Come here" gesture - and put together
they simply mean "Come here, I want to tell you something".
"What do you want / what do you mean?"
With a quizzical expression in his/her eyes, the Greek will shake his/her
head from side to side a few times. This normally means that he/she either
hasn't understood what you've asked, and is asking you to repeat it, or
he/she is asking you what you want.
"Thank you very much my friend"
The "Yes" gesture is followed by putting the right hand to the
heart. Standing in front of the person, the gesture is of course followed
by a verbal statement. But the gesture can also be performed at some distance.