Speak German Like a Local With These 10 Gestures
Germans are not as well-known for their gestures and facial expressions as, say, Latin Americans or Italians. But this doesn’t mean they don’t still use them to communicate daily!
Some German gestures mean the same as in Australia, but be careful, as others do not. You don’t want to end up offending your listener or embarrassing yourself because of a hand gesture that is used in both countries but means something very different from what you think or intend!
Read on and discover the top 10 German gestures you need to know to navigate non-verbal communication with ease.
Let’s say you went out to a pub last weekend with your German friends and one of them forgot his wallet. You pay for his drink and ask him to return the money next time.
Like in Australia, when it comes time to ask for the money your friend owes you, you can just do this hand gesture and he will understand!
How to do it: Rub your thumb and other fingers repeatedly.
You are crazy/an idiot
If you are having a chat with friends about soccer and they tell you Werner is a better football player than Messi, you can tell them they are crazy by doing this hand gesture! But be careful and don’t use it with strangers, as they may consider it offensive.
How to do it: Press your index finger into your forehead. (You can also tap it to emphasize stupidity!).
The Eyelid Pull
Different from other cultures (such as Italians, who use this gesture as a warning or threat), Germans use the eyelid pull gesture to express sarcasm. So, saying “what lovely, sunny weather Berlin has in winter” should definitely be accompanied by an eyelid pull.
How to do it: Pull one of your lower eyelids using your finger.
Want to show your German friend how delicious you consider their strudel? Tell them, “Das ist sehr gut”, or simply do the finger kiss! This hand gesture is a bit informal, so only use it with friends or close family members.
While in Hawaii this gesture is used as a cool greeting, in Germany you are asking somebody to call you by phone!
How to do it: Extend your thumb and small finger, so your hand resembles a hand-held telephone.
Wish Good Luck
If you want to wish good luck in Chinese, you would interlock your hands and bow slightly. Meanwhile, if your German friend is going to start a new job and you want to wish him good luck, you should say “Ich drücke dir die Daumen” while doing this gesture.
How to do it: Wrap all your fingers around your thumb (as if you were doing a “thumbs up”, but with the finger inside the fist).
You Are in Trouble
This is a threatening gesture in Germany, used to joke around with friends or to show a stranger you are really, really angry. For example, if you are at a pub and you hit on someone else’s partner, you can expect to receive a “you are in trouble” hand gesture!
How to do it: Form a fist with one of your hands and press it against the palm of the other.
Please Kill Me
The “please kill me” hand gesture is mostly used when retelling an anecdote. Let’s imagine you were ill-talking about a colleague and all of a sudden you realized he was right behind you.
Retell this tragic (but funny) story to a friend and end it with a “please kill me” gesture!
How to do it: Make an L with your thumb and index fingers and point at your temple as if your hand was a gun.
This gesture is used when you want to signal your surrender. For example, if you claim that Sauerbraten is not that tasty, your German friends will probably bully you into surrendering with this gesture!
How to do it: Raise both your hands as if you were being robbed.
I Have No Clue
Imagine you are walking around Berlin and someone approaches you to ask where they can find a supermarket. You have no idea because you have just arrived in the city, so you can say “Ich habe keine Ahnung”. But if your German is a bit limited, then this gesture will suffice.
How to do it: Just shrug, moving your shoulders towards your ears.
Now that you understand how the most popular hand gestures are used in Germany, enjoy your next trip. Don’t be afraid of using them if you’re ever at a loss for words!