By Jeff Guerra. Photos by Giovanna Molina
Much of the charm in any community’s language lies in the colorful non-verbal gestures carried out by its members. As savvy travelers have come to learn, a well-timed gesture is not just good fun, but can indeed unlock the door to cultural acceptance. Here we’ve documented some of the better known gestures regularly observed in day-to-day Colombian life. Practice in the mirror, or ask a local to show you how it’s done.
The Neck Chop: This is the Colombian version of the world famous throat-slice gesture. It’s basically used to indicate that you (or whoever is being talked about) is screwed. Alternatively it indicates a great level of danger in some proposed idea or act, something like, “You don’t want to do that, buddy.”
The Cheapskate: So let’s say your sister just got back home from a date; you look at the clock and, realizing it’s still quite early, you ask her what went wrong. If she makes an unhappy face and bends an arm and slowly rubs her elbow, she’s saying he was reluctant to reach into his wallet. “What a tightwad!”
The Sideways Mouth Point: If you’re in conversation with someone and need to discreetly motion towards a person or thing, don’t point! Simply slide your lips over almost like you’re puckering for a sideways kiss, to indicate the direction your listener should look to see what you’re talking about.
The Question Of Food: This one does double duty, depending on context. It’s most commonly used when you see someone eating something, and you want to know what the heck it is. “What are you eating?” It is also used when you’re hungry, and trying to get a friend to join you for some lunch. “Let’s go eat.”
The Long-Distance Hello: If you see a friend some distance away – i.e. across the street – put a big smile on your face and thrust your hand up high in the air, saluting him or her with the back of your hand. This is ideally accompanied by either calling the person’s name or whistling; above all, don’t cross the street and go over to say hello. That would be too easy!
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