Brazilian Gestures

In my last post, I talked about learning a new gesture in Taiwan.

This is the gesture:

Imagine my surprise when I moved to Brazil and discovered that they also use the gesture, but they use it to mean the exact opposite!

Here is the story.

In 2013, I had just moved to Vitória, Brazil. One day, as usual, I was thinking about what I was going to eat later on. (Eating has always been a pretty important part of my day.) I had heard about a new restaurant in Vitória that I wanted to try. I asked my friend if it was good and she just gave a shrug and made the gesture.

Where I had lived before (in Taiwan), the gesture meant “empty”.

“Oh,” I said. “So the food must not be very good then.”

“Are you kidding?! It is supposed to be great!” My friend responded.

“Well, let’s go there for lunch then.”

She made the gesture again and shook her head no.

“Why not? If it’s good and there isn’t a line, we should go!” I said.

“Cheia!” My friend made the gesture again. “It’s full!”

“Wait,” I said. “What does this mean?” I made the gesture.

“Full, of course!” My friend looked at me like I was little stupid.

Of course. It means “full.” How could I be so silly?!


And so it goes. The moral of the story is that you should be careful with your gestures. You never know when you will end up communicating the exact opposite of what you mean!

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