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The basic German hand gestures

german hand gestures

In today’s post, you’ll have learned the most useful and funniest German hand gestures. I provided a video of basic hand gestures you can use for your practice. Let’s have a look!

German hand gestures

Greetings and introductions are critical to communication, especially in German culture, where social etiquette is highly valued.

In addition to verbal greetings, hand gestures are essential to German culture and communication.

Knowing and using these gestures correctly can be the key to making a good first impression, showing respect, and building trust with German speakers.

This article will explore the most common and important hand gestures used in greetings and introductions in Germany.

We will also provide tips on using them correctly and avoid misunderstandings or cultural faux pas.

Whether planning to visit Germany or communicate with German speakers, understanding these hand gestures can make a big difference in your interactions and help you build positive relationships.

german hand gestures

Common German hand gestures for greetings

In German culture, greetings are essential to social interaction, and hand gestures play a vital role in expressing respect and building trust.

Here are some common hand gestures used for greetings in Germany:

  1. Handshake: The handshake is the most common greeting gesture in Germany. A firm handshake with eye contact is a sign of respect and shows that you are confident and trustworthy. A weak or overly firm handshake may be interpreted as a lack of respect or confidence.
  2. Hug: A hug is a common greeting between close friends and family members. It’s usually accompanied by a verbal greeting, such as “Hallo” or “Guten Tag.” A friendly hug is a sign of warmth and affection and can help establish a strong connection with German speakers.
  3. Cheek Kiss: A cheek kiss, or “Küsschen,” is a common greeting gesture in Germany, especially between women. It involves kissing each other on the cheek once or twice, depending on the region. The cheek kiss is a sign of respect, warmth, and friendship, and it’s usually accompanied by a verbal greeting, such as “Guten Morgen” or “Guten Abend.”
  4. Bowing: Bowing is not a common greeting gesture in Germany, but it’s sometimes used as a sign of respect in formal settings or traditional German culture. A slight bow with eye contact is a sign of respect, but a deep bow may be interpreted as a lack of confidence or even subservience.

It’s important to note that the appropriate greeting gesture may depend on the relationship and the situation.

For example, a handshake may be more appropriate in a business setting, while a hug or cheek kiss may be more suitable in a social setting.

In general, it’s always best to follow the lead of the person you are greeting and use the greeting gesture they initiate.

You can show respect and build positive relationships with German speakers by appropriately understanding and using these common German greeting hand gestures.

Other important hand gestures in German culture

In addition to the common greeting gestures, other important hand gestures in German culture can convey meaning and show respect.

Here are some of the most important:

  1. Pointing with the Thumb: In Germany, pointing with the index finger is considered rude and can be interpreted as aggressive. Instead, Germans often point with their thumb to indicate direction or location. This gesture is more casual and less aggressive than pointing with the index finger.
  2. Holding Up the Index Finger: Holding up the index finger, or “Zeigefinger,” is a common gesture in Germany that means “wait a moment.” It’s often used when someone is in a conversation or task and needs a moment to finish. This gesture is polite and can help avoid misunderstandings.
  3. Crossed Fingers: Crossed fingers, or “Fingerkreuzen,” is a gesture of good luck in Germany. It’s often used when someone is hoping for a positive outcome, such as during an exam or job interview. The crossed fingers symbolize hope and positivity and can show support and encouragement.
  4. Shaking the Head: In Germany, shaking the head from side to side can mean “no,” but it can also indicate disbelief or confusion. Germans may shake their head slightly and purse their lips as a sign of disapproval or disagreement. It’s important to pay attention to the context and the person’s tone of voice to understand the meaning of this gesture.

By understanding and using these other important hand gestures in German culture, you can avoid misunderstandings and show respect to German speakers.

It’s important to remember that hand gestures are just one aspect of communication and should always be used in conjunction with verbal communication and cultural sensitivity.

german hand gesture (1)

Tips for using hand gestures in Germany

Using hand gestures appropriately is essential for effective communication in Germany, as they convey nonverbal cues and show respect for cultural norms.

Here are some tips for using hand gestures in Germany:

  1. Observe and Follow the Lead: Observe how the person you are speaking to greets you and use the same greeting gesture in return. This shows that you respect their cultural norms and can help establish a positive relationship.
  2. Use Firm Handshakes: When using a handshake, make sure it’s firm, with eye contact and a smile. This shows that you are confident, respectful, and trustworthy.
  3. Avoid Pointing with the Index Finger: Instead of pointing with the index finger, use the thumb to indicate direction or location. This is a more casual and less confrontational gesture well-received in German culture.
  4. Use Polite Gestures: Use gestures such as crossed fingers or holding up the index finger to indicate politeness, respect, and consideration for others. This can help avoid misunderstandings and show that you care about the person you speak with.
  5. Be Mindful of Facial Expressions: Facial expressions are important to nonverbal communication in Germany. Be mindful of your facial expressions and avoid frowning or scowling, as they can be interpreted as disrespectful or hostile.
  6. Practice Active Listening: When someone is speaking, use appropriate gestures such as nodding or saying “Ja” to show that you are actively listening and engaged in the conversation.

Following these tips, you can use hand gestures effectively in Germany and show respect for cultural norms.

Cultural sensitivity and open-mindedness are key to effective communication and building positive cultural relationships.


In conclusion, hand gestures play a significant role in communication and social interaction in Germany.

Whether you’re greeting someone, indicating direction or location, or expressing politeness and respect, using the appropriate hand gesture is essential for effective communication and building positive relationships.

By understanding and using the common greeting gestures, such as the handshake, hug, cheek kiss, and bow, as well as the other important hand gestures, including pointing with the thumb, holding up the index finger, crossed fingers, and shaking the head, you can show respect for cultural norms and avoid misunderstandings.

Being mindful of facial expressions and practicing active listening when communicating in Germany is essential.

Doing so can demonstrate cultural sensitivity and open-mindedness, which can help build strong, positive relationships with German speakers.

Overall, hand gestures are just one aspect of communication in Germany, but they are important and should be noticed.

Using hand gestures appropriately can enhance your communication skills, build trust and respect, and easily navigate cultural differences.

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