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Hand gestures are a big part of the Italian language. They are not taught actively, but Italians acquire them as they grow up and they always – yes, always – accompany any type of conversation.

Gestures in Italian are used in conjunction with speech but they can often replace the spoken word altogether.

But what in the world do they mean?

As you can see from the image above, Italian gestures can have different and varied meanings. The most common and well known Italian gesture is probably the one with the hand closed with the fingers clamped like a crab. This gesture is mostly used to say “What are you talking about?” and it is usually accompanied by strong language, depending on the intensity of the message that needs to be sent.

Sometimes, the position of the hands is extremely important to send the right message. Waving your hand between your eyebrows means ‘you’re crazy’ whereas lowering the position of your hand slightly and waving it under your nose means ‘you stink’.

Gestures have become such a big part of the Italian language that we Italians end up using them even when speaking other languages, which often leads to confusion for the interlocutor.

So, apologies if you don’t understand what we’re saying on our group picture above but even though we’re not all Italian we’ve embraced Italian gestures so much at the office that we can’t live without them anymore! ​