No matter how much the world tries to convince us about language, we cannot deny that there’s much that we can also say when we make use of our gestures. In fact, by using it along with your speech, you can amplify the meaning you want to get across to your audience.
This blog post aims to teach you about the most common Korean hand gestures, which are used a lot in Korea. So let’s get started!
Korean Hand Gestures
By now, you must know that the Korean people rely heavily upon the context of the situation, and thus they omit the pronouns. If the people of a particular culture can forget the words in their language, imagine how brilliant their games of gestures would be.
To help you understand Korean culture better, we bring you some great hand (Korean) gestures that are extremely common in Korea. Every Korean people must know about these hand gestures and unconsciously use them in their everyday routine.
What does it mean when Koreans cross their thumb and index finger? Finger Heart
If you are a K-pop/K-drama fan, then there is no way that you don’t know this one. Every K-pop fan is obligated to see the finger heart, which people usually use pretty much. In Korea, if you want to tell someone that you like them, then you can do it by hand gesture.
Crossing your thumb and index finger will give you the shape of a heart, which you can show to someone if you want to shower some love on them. For example, if your best friend is going somewhere and can’t practically be with them, you can show them the finger heart.
Think of the finger heart as a Korean equivalent to the Western flying kiss. Just be mindful of not using this gesture with your boss or someone senior unless they have shown closeness to you already.
Posing for a picture and don’t know what to do? Use the Korean hand gesture, which might become your pet peeve someday. The peace sign is shown by holding three fingers down in a fist and only showing the index and middle fingers. This universal sign is usually used for victory or peace purposes only.
However, in Korea, this sign is used to say pretty much everything. Want to encourage someone? Show a peace sign. Want to say, “me too?” Show a peace sign. Want to say, “I agree?” Show a peace sign again.
Trust us when we tell you that you can show a peace sign for almost everything in Korea. It is that common. It would help if you did not use it in highly formal situations, but other than that, you are okay with using it anytime.
Single Thumb Up
If you want to say okay or good, you can give a thumbs up. Most of the time, Korean people don’t say how impressed they are. They would show you a thumbs-up with expressions of admiration and awe on their faces.
Korean people also use other gestures if they are pleased. Did you like something? Raise a thumb. Did you love something? Raise to thumbs up. That’s how they do in Korea, and that’s how it would be preferred if you go to Korea and use this hand gesture.
We have been telling you that Korean hand gestures could be slightly casual, so you should not use them in professional settings. This is a hand gesture that you can easily use even in your office.
So unless your office has a different set of business etiquette that does not allow you to be a little informal, feel free to use this hand gesture.
Korean people tend to cross their arms whenever they want to say no. In many cultures, people tend to shake their heads when they want to say no, but in Korean culture, you can say no by crossing your arms.
This gesture is universally understood, but it is widespread in South Korea. You can use it in a variety of situations. For instance, if your colleague offers you a coffee and you don’t want it, you can show the crossing arms gesture to them.
Double Hand Wave
Since we are talking about different hand gestures to say no in Korean, you should know that you can also imply a negative response by waving both of your hands.
This can also be your reflex that if you do not want something, you start to wave your hand in a “no position.” Here are some situations where you can easily use double-hand wave gestures to imply that you do not need or want something.
For instance, if your mother offers you breakfast very early in the morning, you could show the double hand wave. If someone offers you water, but you know that you do not need water at the moment, you could also show the double hand wave.
Korean people are fabulous at making everything look cute. They can even make solemn decisions like making a promise, which is charming in Korean. Korean pinky swear is very different from what those people know about worldwide. In Korean pinky swear, there are four steps that you need to follow if you want to make a lovely pinky swear.
Every Korean person would know about these steps and probably carry them out in their everyday routine. Older guys do not tend to do a pinky swear, but the younger generation is highly into it. Many girls and even some women tend to perform the four steps of the pinky swear while promising something to each other.
Here are four steps of a pinky swear in South Korea: 약속 (yakseok)- 도장 (dojang) – 싸인 (sa-in)- 복사 (boksa). Let’s learn and use them:
Lock Pinkies -약속 (Yakseok)
The first step is to lock pinkies which are universal. You interlock your pinkies with the other person to start making a promise.
Stamp A Seal -도장 (Dojang)
Then you have to join your thumbs to stamp a seal. This will mean that your pinky promise is now sealed with assurance and trust. These two steps are the most commonly used ones.
Sign To Confirm -싸인 (Sa-in)
After you have sealed a stamp, you need to touch each other’s palms to sign it off. You can do it while interlocking the pinkies and letting them go. It simply depends upon your preference. Once you sign, you need to copy it.
Make A Photocopy -복사 (Boksa)
To copy the pinky promise, you can wave your fingers while letting each other’s hands go. These are the significant steps of a pinky promise in Korea, and the people consider it the proper form of any guarantee (among teens).
Just like the pinky promise, there is also a promise handshake in Korea. You can perform the last three steps of a pinky swear and have a handshake afterward to do a promise handshake. This is not as common as the pinky claim, yet many people tend to do a promise handshake while committing to something.
If you are an adult, you might wonder if this information could be useless for you. We want to tell you that this is not the case. You can use it in several situations. For instance, if you are talking to a kid, you could say, “Let’s have a promise handshake” to make them feel more comfortable with you.
Forehead flick is another hand gesture which Korean people make a lot. This is usually done as a light punishment for something. Onew from the boyband Shinee in K-pop is known to have the hardest forehead flick. He can even crack a walnut with his flick. Weird, right?
If you are playing with your friends, you can ask them to have a forehead flick if they lose. If you don’t want to do that, you would at least come across some situations in which your business partners or family in Korea would ask you to do this.
Covering Mouth With One Hand
In Korea, people tend to cover their mouths a lot. You would see a lot of people in Korea covering their mouths. For a foreigner, it is not easy to guess why they would do that. They do on many occasions, but two unique events for this are while eating something and laughing.
Korean people respect each other’s privacy and therefore do not want to give someone an unpleasant and unsophisticated look on their face. This is why they tend to cover their face. You should also do that if you ever go to Korea.
You don’t raise your hand and wave your fingers in South Korea to call someone. Instead, you tend to move your palm in an up-and-down movement. You need to do it once, but you can also do it multiple times if you are incredibly excited.
Money Hand Gesture
The money hand gesture in Korea indicates that the talk is about money. You need to join your thumb, index finger, and middle finger to talk about money in Korea. This is an excellent way of implying that you require cash without talking about it in Korea.
Rubbing Your Thumb
You can even rub your thumb once you make the money gesture, as it shows that you are needing/are asking for money. If a person is doing that in front of you, then you should think if you owe them some money or not,
Along with making a finger heart, Korean people also make an arms heart. To make an arms heart, all you need to do is to join your fingers on your head in a way that your arms are making a heart sign. This is a widespread way of showing love in Korea, of course. You can slightly bend to your right or left side if you want to be cuter for your loved ones.
Soju Drink Gesture
If you want to take someone to the drinks, you can pretend to hold a small glass in your hand and empty it in your mouth as if you are drinking. This gesture can imply that you want to take someone on a drink with you.
Discover More About Korean With Ling!
That’s about all the essential Korean hand gestures. You would not have to search about each motion or keep wondering what the other person just did if you went to Korea. The Ling app is a haven for all Korean learners who have been suffering from limited or unspecified sources of learning Korean. If you are learning Korean, we also have countless more blog posts to check out, sharpen your Korean skills, and be like a native Korean speaker.
What else should you do to become fluent in Korean? Try downloading a language learning app like Ling. It’s available on the Play Store and App Store, and you can take it anywhere you go. Discover more about Korean with the Ling app.