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Gestures in hispanic cultures Conversa Spanish Institute

Gestures in Hispanic Cultures

Fluency isn’t just about the words you speak, but also about how you speak them. Gestures and body language play a huge role in communicating! Hand motions and facial expressions might feel like common sense because you’ve been using them your whole life, but gestures are actually very cultural. There are some gestures that are popular in Hispanic cultures, and learning them will help you better understand the beautiful Spanish language and the many cultures that speak it.

Many gestures will look familiar to you, but many will leave you confused. When I lived in Spain, some of these motions really threw me for a loop! Try and guess what each of these gestures means!

Gestures often come from phrases

First, think about some common gestures and body language that you use. Where do these motions come from? They often come from phrases or idioms. This means if you aren’t familiar with a colloquial phrase, the motion might not make sense.

For example, in the United States, the phrase “has a screw loose” is a way to say that someone is crazy. Because of that, in the U.S., to show that someone is crazy, people may use their index finger to make circles by their forehead!

Therefore, the following examples may come with a new phrase to learn, too!

1. Open palm, tap your cheek

What do you think this means when someone opens their palm and taps their cheek? Hint- it comes from the Spanish word caradura, which literally translates to “hard face.” This expression means that someone is shameless. A common example of this is when a friend always tries to get out of paying and doesn’t feel bad about letting others pay for them!

2. Cut your stomach with your hand

This is actually something very positive! It’s a good thing if you see someone hold their palm up as if they were going to karate shop their stomach. It comes from the phrase partirse de risa, meaning “to break up with laughter.” Therefore, you are literally showing breaking yourself up with your hand! If you think it sounds strange, consider the fact that in English, it’s common to say “I’m dying with laughter!”

3. Palm up, open and close fingers a few times

This one looks reminiscent of Italian hand gestures. If you see someone with their palm up, opening and closing all of their fingers a few times, they aren’t just talking with their hands- they’re saying something very specific. This gesture means that it’s very crowded, but usually in a good way. For many Spaniards, a crowded room means a lively atmosphere and environment!

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