Destinations

10 Best Beaches in the Philippines

Consisting of 7,107 islands located in the tropical zone, there is no shortage of great beaches in the Philippines. If you combine white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and pristine nature, you get pretty darn close to an idyllic beach, but fact be told, not all beaches are created equal. So let’s take a look at what I consider to be the Top 10 Best Beaches in the Philippines:

10 – Anawangin Beach in Zambales, Luzon Island

Anawangin Beach in Zambales, Luzon Island, Photo by paul david (busy running!), Flickr
Anawangin Beach in Zambales, Luzon Island, Photo by paul david (busy running!), Flickr

9 – Siargao in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao Island

Siargao in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao Island, Photo by smallislander, Flickr
Siargao in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao Island, Photo by smallislander, Flickr

8 – Dakak Beach in Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao Island

Dakak Beach in Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao Island, Photo by VisualTreats, Flickr
Dakak Beach in Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao Island, Photo by VisualTreats, Flickr

7 – Pearl Farm Beach in Davao del Norte, Mindanao Island

Pearl Farm Beach in Davao del Norte, Mindanao Island, Photo by jimpg2-->Looking for Peace group moderators, Flickr
Pearl Farm Beach in Davao del Norte, Mindanao Island, Photo by jimpg2-->Looking for Peace group moderators, Flickr

6 – Honda Bay Beach in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Island

Honda Bay Beach in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Island, Photo by jedsum, Flickr
Honda Bay Beach in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Island, Photo by jedsum, Flickr

5 – El Nido Beach in El Nido, Palawan Island

El Nido Beach in El Nido, Palawan Island, Photo by elmarshox, Flickr
El Nido Beach in El Nido, Palawan Island, Photo by elmarshox, Flickr

4 – Camiguin Beach in Catarman, Mindanao Island

Camiguin Beach in Catarman, Mindanao Island, Photo by Roslyn in Starfish Island
Camiguin Beach in Catarman, Mindanao Island, Photo by Roslyn in Starfish Island

3 – Panglao Beach in Bohol, Bohol Island

Panglao Beach in Bohol, Bohol Island, Photo by Pinay06, Wikipedia
Panglao Beach in Bohol, Bohol Island, Photo by Pinay06, Wikipedia

2 – Pagudpud Beach in Ilocos, Luzon Island

Pagudpud Beach in Ilocos, Luzon Island, Photo by Magalhães, Wikipedia
Pagudpud Beach in Ilocos, Luzon Island, Photo by Magalhães, Wikipedia

1 – Boracay Beach in Panay, Panay Island

Boracay Beach in Panay, Panay Island, Photo by Magalhães, Wikipedia
Boracay Beach in Panay, Panay Island, Photo by Magalhães, Wikipedia

Obviously, with hundreds of beaches, the Philippines would likely have one to suit your liking no matter your preference. Some of the most secluded and the least known beaches could easily be better than any of the top 1- ones from the list above, but they’re still waiting to be discovered and enjoyed to the fullest. Or perhaps the fact that few know about them make them so special, in which case we best keep them a secret. Either way, hope this guide to the Top 10 Best Beaches in the Philippines was a good starting point for your journey to this tropical country.

10 Most Famous Festivals in the Philippines

Island nation of the Philippines has a long and rich history. The best way to experience it is through participation in festival which take the old traditions and demonstrate them to the modern world in the most spectacular manner imaginable. Here’s a list of 10 most famous festivals in the Philippines which introduces the best of the Filipino merrymaking through pictures.

10 – Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Cebu Island

Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Cebu Island, Photo by Marcelino Rapayla Jr., Wikipedia
Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Cebu Island, the Philippines, Photo by Marcelino Rapayla Jr., Wikipedia

9 – Pintados Festival in Tacloban City, Leyte Island

Pintados Festival in Tacloban City, Leyte Island, Photo by JinJian, Wikipedia
Pintados Festival in Tacloban City, Leyte Island, the Philippines, Photo by JinJian, Wikipedia

8 – Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City, Luzon Island

Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City, Luzon Island, Photo by webzer, Flickr
Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City, Luzon Island, the Philippines, Photo by webzer, Flickr

7 – Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon Province

Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon Province, Photo by twinkletuason, Flickr
Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon Province, the Philippines, Photo by twinkletuason, Flickr

6 – Moriones Festival on Marinduque Island

Moriones Festival on Marinduque Island, Photo by ederic, Flickr
Moriones Festival on Marinduque Island, the Philippines, Photo by ederic, Flickr

5 – Maskara Festival in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental

Maskara Festival in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Photo by nfocus photography philippines, Flickr
Maskara Festival in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, the Philippines, Photo by nfocus photography philippines, Flickr

4 – Kadayawan Festival in Davao City, Mindanao Island

Kadayawan Festival in Davao City, Mindanao Island, Photo by webzer, Flickr
Kadayawan Festival in Davao City, Mindanao Island, the Philippines, Photo by webzer, Flickr

3 – Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan Province, Panay Island

Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan Province, Panay Island, Photo by Flipped Out, Flickr
Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan Province, Panay Island, the Philippines, Photo by Flipped Out, Flickr

2 – Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal Province

Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal Province, Photo by TheMollyJayne, Flickr
Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal Province, the Philippines, Photo by TheMollyJayne, Flickr

1 – Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Panay Island

Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Panay Island, Photo by Icqgirl, Wikipedia
Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Panay Island, the Philippines, Photo by Icqgirl, Wikipedia

Festivals from the list above are celebrated annually, that means one can only experience each of them once a year. They are popular tourist attractions, captivating the eyes and the ears of thousands of tourists who often take a trip to the Philippines just to experience their chosen festival with their own eyes. As the popularity of the festivals continues to grow, the future of traditions they celebrate is certain to remain preserved for future generations.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate in Munnar, India

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate holds an impressive prime. It is the highest located tea estate in the world but aside from visiting one of the world’s primes, a visitor to Kolukkumalai would also be treated with breathtaking panoramic views.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate in Munnar, India, Photo: Motographer, Flickr
Kolukkumalai Tea Estate in Munnar, India, Photo: Motographer, Flickr

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate can be found 35 kilometers outside of Munnar, India. Built atop the precipitous ridge, the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate majestically crowns the below lying Tamilnadu plains. The tea from this 8,000 feet above sea level estate is known for its excellent full flavour which was recognized in 2005 when the Kolukkumalai tea won the Golden Leaf India Awards.

Kolukkumalai is both remote and difficult to access. To get there from nearby Munnar would take about an hour and a half but the panoramic views of the area with the rugged mountains that surround it make the trip worthwhile. Due to its remoteness, most people from Kolukkumalai have never left the area and all they know are their homes and their work in the tea plantation. Their life is simple but that’s exactly the way they like it.

Native Girl Working at the Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation, Photo: sguà!, Flickr
Native Girl Working at the Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation, Photo: sguà!, Flickr

The Kolukkumalai Tea is harvested and processed using traditional techniques which is one of the most important aspects that continues to draw tea enthusiasts to it. It takes seven steps to properly process the Kolukkumalai Tea and all of it is done in a factory at the center of Kolukkumalai Tea Estate that’s more than 70 years old. The seven steps of their orthodox tea making process are as follows:

  1. withering
  2. rolling
  3. sieving
  4. fermenting
  5. drying
  6. fiber extraction
  7. grading

One doesn’t have to be a tea enthusiast to enjoy a trip to the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate in Munnar, India. Quality, sustainably harvested tea can be appreciated by anybody, but even if all teas taste the same to you, the views offered to those who make up the hill are bound to take your breath away. Give it a try if you’re in that part of India and don’t miss out on a trip to the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, the highest located tea estate in the world.

Finally, check out the video of the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate filmed by a YouTube member who got a chance to enjoy the pristine beauty of the area:

Thermal Baths of Villavicencio in Argentina

Thermal Baths of Villavicencio are a set of mineral hot springs located northwest of Mendoza, Argentina, known for their therapeutic properties. While the site has been known to the locals for centuries, the rumors of the baths’ healing powers were first introduced in 1902.

Villavicencio Hotel Near Thermal Baths in Argentina, Photo: Vocoder, Wikipedia
Villavicencio Hotel Near Thermal Baths in Argentina, Photo: Vocoder, Wikipedia

Villavicencio is not a tourism hot spot. Even in its home country of Argentina, the name of Villavicencio only rings the bells because the bottled water bearing the same name is distributed throughout the country. If it weren’t for the thermal baths (Termas Villavicencio Spa), there would be nothing in Villavicencio to attract tourists. Though to make the site more feasible, a hotel was built in the area in 1941.

The Thermal Baths of Villavicencio are tucked high in the mountains which makes access to them challenging to say the least. Small interpretive center can be found a few kilometers before the pools but perhaps the only real reason to pay it a visit would be the center’s pet llama. Despite its remoteness (or perhaps because of it), the Thermal Baths of Villavicencio are an interesting vacation spot for those looking to unwind and recharge. As an interesting fact, the Termas Villavicencio Spa was visited by Charles Darwin during his world tour on March 30, 1835.

Short video below was filmed by a group of Spanish speaking people in the Thermal Baths of Villavicencio:

Insein Prison in Rangoon, Myanmar

In a strangely morbid irony, the name of Myanmar‘s notorious Insein Prison is pronounced in the same way we would pronounce “Insane Prison”. And as if this game of words was not enough, the pronunciation of the prison’s name is more than fitting. The Insein Prison gained its notoriety after one of their rumoured inmates – Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Aerial Photo of Insein Prison in Rangoon, Myanmar, Image by Microsoft Map via BBC News
Aerial Photo of Insein Prison in Rangoon, Myanmar, Image by Microsoft Map via BBC News

Notorious around the world for frequent use of both mental and physical torture and less than inhuman conditions, the military junta run Insein Prison is part of the ruling party’s vehicles used to maintain control over Myanmar (Burma). Most of the inmates in Insein Prison are political dissidents or people who otherwise get in the way of the government’s totalitarian rule.

Insein Prison is located in the old capital of Myanmar – Rangoon (Yangon). Myanmar’s human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi is believed to have been held prisoner there on three different occasions – once in 2003, then again in 2007 and one more time in 2009. It was his imprisonment that brought worldwide media attention to Insein Prison and based on the findings of investigative journalists, serving a sentence at Insein often sentenced the prisoner to death.

Insein Prison is overcrowded. At times it holds more than 10,000 inmates yet its capacity is less than half of that. Prisoners are forced to sleep on bare concrete and are deprived of a chance to take a shower. Add to it the fact that they are also often left inside their cells with hand chained to the wall and legs kept wide apart by metal bars, the conditions are perfect for communicable diseases to spread easily and quickly. With only 3 doctors available to assist sick inmates, many die before adequate medical care could be provided.

There really is no surprise that Insein Prison is dubbed “the darkest hell-home in Burma.” Sources from the prison itself confirm that many inmates died within its walls while serving their sentence there. Unfortunately, Myanmar continues being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The ruling party is having themselves an unchallenged lifestyle and is not looking to part with it anytime soon.

It goes without saying that each time a foreigner takes a trip to Myanmar, they are irreversibly supporting this totalitarian government. Unfortunately, while most of the income from tourism ends up in the pockets of the elite, without it the life for the ordinary folk would be even worse. It’s a catch 22 that doesn’t come with an easy way out. As a vacation destination, Insein Prison could be a questionable choice, but given how increasingly popular Thanatourism is getting, it might be an interesting landmark to visit. That if you can get past the fact that while you’re out there taking pictures, somebody inside is being tortured, or is dying due to inhuman conditions they are forced to live in.

The video below was shot just meters away from Insein prison which is normally guarded and any attempts to photograph or film it are frowned upon:

Gomateshvara – Tallest Monolithic Statue in the World

Located on top of Vindhyagiri Hill in Shravanabelagola of Mysore, India stands the tallest monolithic statue in the world. Carved out of a single block of granite, the 60 feet tall Gomateshvara Statue can be seen from 30 km away. Gomateshvara Statue was built by Chamundaraya – a minister and poet from the Western Ganga Dynasty between 978 and 993 CE and has been a site of pilgrimage for Jains ever since.

Gomateshvara - Tallest Monolithic Statue in the World, Photo: Sistak, Flickr
Gomateshvara - Tallest Monolithic Statue in the World, Photo: Sistak, Flickr

Gomateshvara Statue depicts a Jain deity Lord Gomateshwara. Jain devotees flock to the Gomateshvara Statue every 12 years to celebrate what’s known as the Mahamastakabhisheka festival. During the festival, the statue is sprinkled with water, milk, sugarcane juice and saffron flower paste (in that order) which are brought before Gomateshvara in 1,008 vessels. The bathing of Gomateshvara Statue is followed with offerings of silver and gold which the devotees leave at the deity’s feet.

Gomateshvara Statue is Located on the Vindhyagiri Hill, Photo: Sistak, Flickr
Gomateshvara Statue is Located on the Vindhyagiri Hill, Photo: Sistak, Flickr

614 steps lead to the top of Vindhyagiri Hill where the Gomateshvara Statue is located. Several temples can be found along the way and at other parts of the hill. The hill is also famous for its inscriptions dating as far back as 600 CE. There are more than 800 of them at various spots around the Gomateshvara Statue.

Below is the video of Gomateshvara Statue or Bhagwan Bahubali as it is known locally. The video description states: “Monolithic statue of Bhagwan Bahubali located in Shravanabelgola, Karnataka, India. It was built by Hoysala Senapati Chamundraya around 983AD.:

Bat Caves of Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

As dusk falls upon eastern Thailand and daylight starts to shimmer away, clouds of innumerable bats start to fill the skies over Khao Yai National Park. Thousands upon thousands of bats emerge from the caves to feed on small insects, making it look as though a giant shadow from the middle of the earth arose to cover the star filled sky.

Bats Flying Out of the Caves of Khao Yai National Park in Thailand at Sunset, Photo: Nir Nußbaum, Flickr
Bats Flying Out of the Caves of Khao Yai National Park in Thailand at Sunset, Photo: Nir Nußbaum, Flickr

Much of the landscape within the Khao Yai National Park in Thailand contains limestone hills with hollow insides. Over the millennia, small cracks within the cliffs eroded into a labyrinth of caves that created perfect habitat for nocturnal creatures. The agricultural region surrounding the hills is full of insects offering ample supply of food for large numbers of bats who could be perceived as a natural pest control.

Many of the Khao Yai National Park bat caves are revered among the local Thais, some even had a statue of Buddha erected within and receive monks and other Buddhist devotees who come to pay respect to the deity while shriek of countless bats echoes deafeningly from the darkness above.

During the Day, Bats Sleep Upside Down Within the Caves of Khao Yai, Photo: whitecat sg, Flickr
During the Day, Bats Sleep Upside Down Within the Caves of Khao Yai, Photo: whitecat sg, Flickr

Visitors to Khao Yai National Park who arm themselves with patience can stay at the edge of the park until the sun sets beyond the horizon and watch how bit by bit, the bats start to emerge from the caves. An odd one here and there is soon joined by dozens of others until eventually you see a myriad of them seemingly appear from out of nowhere.

Millions of Bats Fly Out of the Caves at Dusk in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, Photo: stijnbokhove, Flickr
Millions of Bats Fly Out of the Caves at Dusk in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, Photo: stijnbokhove, Flickr

Eventually, like a giant shadow of doom from the underworld, a massive cloud of bats fills up the sky as its ever changing shape keeps growing into a river of darkness. The biggest spectacle is to watch the flow of bats exiting the cave split like a fork of fluid to avoid a raptor who dived toward the bats in anticipation of an easy meal. The forked arms of a cloud of bats then come towards each other to become one again in a spectacular fashion resembling twisting ribbon.

Khao Yai National Park was established in 1962. It is the second largest national park in Thailand and is located in the Nakhon Ratchasima Province, about 4 hours east of Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok. Covering the area of 2,168 square kilometres, Khao Yai National Park is home to a wide range of fauna and flora (on top of the vast population of the above mentioned bats) and was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Finally, check out this video a guy recorded at the entrance to one of the bat caves outside of Khao Yai National Park. The video contains a recording of bats exiting the cave. Up to 2 Million Wrinkled Lip Bats exited this cave alone. What an amazing mass of flying power. I bet the man who recorded the video had no mosquito problem whatsoever:

Witches Market of La Paz, Bolivia

Are you into witchcraft, dark magic and all things from beyond? Do you have troubles buying essential ingredients necessary to perform the rites or brew potions? Have I got a vacation spot for you… Located on an intersection of Calle Jiminez and Linares in Bolivian town of La Paz, tucked between Santa Cruz and Sagarnaga is a popular tourist area known for its Witches Market. It’s the place where old women wearing pointy witch hats sell artefacts, amulets, charms, and other items of general use for practitioners of witchcraft. And if you fancy having your fortune foretold, just use the services of one of many witch doctors. They can be seen roaming through the witches market dressed in distinct dark robes.

Dried Baby Llamas Sold at the Witch Market in La Paz, Bolivia, Photo: Jungle_Boy, Flickr
Dried Baby Llamas Sold at the Witch Market in La Paz, Bolivia, Photo: Jungle_Boy, Flickr

The Witches Market of La Paz is in a popular tourist area so vendors are plentiful and so are the items for sale. You can buy many things that would normally get classified as “strange” or “bizarre” yet even if you’re not into witchcraft, the variety and uniqueness of available items is sure to leave you in awe. Anything from traditional folk remedies, through herbs and formulas to brew your own aphrodisiacs, all the way to dried snakes and turtles, owl feathers, bat wings, soapstone figurines, and dried frogs (used for Ayamara rituals) can be found at the La Paz’ Witch Market.

Street in Bolivian La Paz Where Witches Market is Held, Photo: jacsonquerubin, Flickr
Street in Bolivian La Paz Where Witches Market is Held, Photo: jacsonquerubin, Flickr

One of the coolest items offered for sale at the Witches Market of La Paz are dried llama foetuses. These are highly valued among the practitioners of witchcraft for their ability to bring upon good fortune and prosperity. Llamas are large animals used throughout Bolivia and are believed by many Bolivians (witches or not) to be the bearers of good luck. Bolivian construction workers use llama foetuses as offerings to the goddess Pachamama to protect them from workplace accidents. Wealthy Bolivians, on the other hand, make their offerings to Pachamama more poshy and use a living llama which they sacrifice. This is part of the Bolivian tradition that’s centuries old.

Check out the video of the Witches Market in La Paz, Bolivia below:

Breathtaking Natural Stone Arches of Legzira Beach in Morocco

The Legzira Beach can be found between Sidi Ifni and Mirleft in Morocco. Not only is the Legzira Beach the most unique beach in Morocco, it’s also one of the most astounding beaches in the world. Its uniqueness comes mostly from the presence of two breathtaking naturally formed stone arches that make Legzira Beach a sight to behold.

Natural Arch on Legzira Beach in Morocco, Photo: Tine72, Flickr
Natural Arch on Legzira Beach in Morocco, Photo: Tine72, Flickr

Washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Legzira Beach is 8km long, rocky and windy and exposed to significant tides. Natural stone arches can only be accessed during low tide, but it pays off to wait till the water descends. Years of erosion carved out giant holes in the cliff creating natural arches of magnificent visual appeal.

View of Natural Arches on Legzira Beach from the Air, Photo: penbontrhydybeddau, Flickr
View of Natural Arches on Legzira Beach from the Air, Photo: penbontrhydybeddau, Flickr

Like many other popular tropical destinations, Morocco attracts large numbers of tourists, especially from Europe, who come here to enjoy surfing and para-gliding, however despite excessive tourism focused development, the area around the Legzira Beach is still full of traditinal Moroccan huts with fishermen hauling around their catch on donkeys.

Gestures That Are Offensive in Other Countries

Travelling through foreign countries can be an uplifting experience. Getting to know different cultures, societies, religions, ways of life, etc. through real life interaction with locals will teach you more about that country than you could possibly learn from books. This comes with its own challenges, though. If you’re visiting a non English speaking country and dare to straddle off the beaten tourist track (where the real deal is), you will likely be faced with situations when communication gets tricky. You have just come to that country and don’t speak a word in their language and neither do any of the locals speak English. In cases like that, using body language and the many seemingly universal gestures can become invaluable.

Tricky thing is, that some gestures have completely different meaning in other countries from what you may be used to. Not only could your intended message get lost in translation, you could actually end up offending or otherwise causing an unintentional, but inappropriate and unfortunate circumstance for yourself. Some gestures simply have different meaning in one part of the world than in another. Let’s take a look at some of the most common gestures we use in North America that are offensive in other countries. This is the list of top gestures most commonly misunderstood abroad along with the list of countries where their meaning is different from that of North America.

Peace Sign in Australia and England

Japanese Girls Making a Victory Gesture that Can Be Offensive in Other Countries, Photo: Chalky Lives, Wikipedia
Japanese Girls Making a Victory Gesture that Can Be Offensive in Other Countries, Photo: Chalky Lives, Wikipedia

Holding up one’s index and middle fingers to create a “V” shape is typically a sign of “peace” in North America, but this common gesture can have quite a different meaning in Australia and England. While this “V” sign stands for “Victory” in England provided your palm faces outwards, it takes a meaning of “up yours” in Australia when pulled with the palm facing inwards.

Showing Palms in Greece

Moutza Gesture is Highly Offensive and Insulting in Greece, Photo: NikoSilver, Wikipedia
Moutza Gesture is Highly Offensive and Insulting in Greece, Photo: NikoSilver, Wikipedia

The “talk to the hand” gesture is used in North America to signal an oncoming vehicle or a person to stop, but in Greece it’s best to keep your palms to yourself. The gesture has been perceived as highly insulting in Greece since the time of Byzantine Empire when shackled criminals were tainted by people who’d smear their faces with excrements (known as Moutza).

Thumbs Up in Thailand

Thumbs Up Gesture is Common in the West, But Could Cause Offense in Other Countries, Photo: CarbonNYC, Flickr
Thumbs Up Gesture is Common in the West, But Could Cause Offense in Other Countries, Photo: CarbonNYC, Flickr

A thumbs-up as a sign of approval is a gesture that many people instinctively use, especially if language barrier prevents you from expressing your approval verbally. In Thailand, however this gestures is a sign of mockery and condemnation. It’s akin to one child sticking a tongue out at another. However since Thailand is a very popular country among travellers and many travellers use thumbs-up instinctively, the Thais already grew to accept the fact that foreigners readily use this gesture without meaning any offense so it’s unlikely to cause any offense, however people who use it are still seen as clueless foreigners.

Beckoning Gesture in Philippines

Beckoning Gesture Can Cause Serious Offense in Some Countries, Photo: Symic, Flickr
Beckoning Gesture Can Cause Serious Offense in Some Countries, Photo: Symic, Flickr

Performing a curling finger motion with one’s index finger as a “come here” sign is perceived as derogatory in many South East Asian countries. This gesture is commonly used for dogs in the Philippines so when used for a person, you would be implying that you see them as something inferior. What’s worse, this gesture could get you arrested and to prevent you from using it again, the authorities could break your finger.

Touching Top of the Head in Sri Lanka

Touching People on Top of Their Heads is an Invasive Gesture in Buddhist Countries, Photo: Tsuki-chama, Flickr
Touching People on Top of Their Heads is an Invasive Gesture in Buddhist Countries, Photo: Tsuki-chama, Flickr

If you pat a child in North American on top of their head with an open palm, you would be showing fondness, but this is not how it’s perceived across South Asia. Predominantly Buddhist countries, such as Sri Lanka perceive top of the head as the most sacred part of the body (feet are the dirtiest) and touching it is seen as highly invasive.

A-OK in France

OK Gesture is OK in North America but Can Cause Offense in Other Countries, Photo: Awesome Joolie, Flickr
OK Gesture is OK in North America but Can Cause Offense in Other Countries, Photo: Awesome Joolie, Flickr

Forming a circle with your forefinger and thumb in North America means that something is “amazing” or “OK-ed” but the gesture has a completely different meaning in France. Since making of the circle forms a zero, this gesture typically means that something or someone is worthless. It’s definitely not a good way to compliment your host on a meal.

Fig Sign in Turkey

Fig Sign Gesture Can Cause Offense in Some Countries, Photo: Jeremykemp, Wikipedia
Fig Sign Gesture Can Cause Offense in Some Countries, Photo: Jeremykemp, Wikipedia

A hand gesture which involved a formation of a fist with the thumb tucked under the index finger is used by children when playing “Got Your Nose”. The fig sign gesture otherwise doesn’t have much meaning to it, but you wouldn’t want to use it in Turkey where it’s an equivalent to the offensive middle finger gesture in North America.

Handing Things with One Hand in Japan

To Avoid Offending a Receiver, Always Pass Items with Both Hands in Japan, Photo: James Callan, Flickr
To Avoid Offending a Receiver, Always Pass Items with Both Hands in Japan, Photo: James Callan, Flickr

Most Westerners probably don’t pay much attention to whether they’ve used your both hands when handing people things, or only one. We also typically don’t pay much attention to how hands are used when people are handing objects to us, but when visiting Japan, it would pay off to ensure you refrain from one-handed giving. Whether you’re giving someone your business card or passing them your camera to take a picture, make sure you use both hands to hand the item over. The use of both hands signifies sincerity, whereas one-handed presentations are often perceived as dismissive.

Crossing Fingers in Vietnam

Crossed Fingers Gesture is a Sign of Good Luck Wishing, But Can Be Offensive in Other Countries, Photo: JoséMa Orsini, Flickr
Crossed Fingers Gesture is a Sign of Good Luck Wishing, But Can Be Offensive in Other Countries, Photo: JoséMa Orsini, Flickr

When westerners cross their index and middle fingers at someone, it’s usually to wish them good luck. This gesture however takes an offensive sub-tone in Vietnam where the crossed fingers are seen as a gesture simulating the look of female sexual organs.

Bull Horns in Italy

Bull Horns Gesture Is Great to Rock and Roll, But Can Cause Offense in Italy, Photo: notsogoodphotography, Flickr
Bull Horns Gesture Is Great to Rock and Roll, But Can Cause Offense in Italy, Photo: notsogoodphotography, Flickr

Fans of Heavy Metal often raise their fists with pinkie and index fingers extended upwards to rock and roll to the tunes of their favourite genre. This bull horns gesture could make for uncomfortable situations when used in Italy, though, especially if used in presence of a man. Italians have long used the bull horn gesture to mock men who are known to have been cheated on by their wives. The Cuckold gesture is also used at football referees after making calls the fans do not agree with.

Eating with Left Hand in Malaysia

Putting Food in Your Mouth with Left Hand is a No No in Muslim Countries, Photo: abbyladybug, Flickr
Putting Food in Your Mouth with Left Hand is a No No in Muslim Countries, Photo: abbyladybug, Flickr

Most westerner pay little regard to what hand they use when they are putting food in their mouth, but in Malaysia as well as most other predominantly Muslim countries, left hand is reserved for uses you don’t want to think about while eating.

I hope this list helps you understand what some of the most common gestures mean in other countries where they could be perceived as offensive. If you know of other innocent gestures that are offensive in other countries that are not mentioned on this list, please share your expertise in the comments.