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Culture: Hand Gestures II – The “Thief Sign”

by Brandi

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June 8th, 2009

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Bienvenidos (welcome) to this week’s cultural tidbit. Before we jump into the culture topic for this week, I wanted to remind you to look into this week’s special offer on the Visual Link Spanish™ Level I course if you have not purchased it yet.

This week we will continue on with Latin American hand gestures. The Latin hand gesture we’ll learn today is useful on city buses and at public places in Latin America. I like to call it the “Thief Sign”.

If you visit Latin America and you decide to take public transportation so you can more fully experience the culture (like we talked about in a previous newsletter), it’s good to know the “Thief Sign”. Since seating is usually limited on city buses, you will probably have to stand in the aisle and hold onto a rail. Make sure you look down at the mothers and grandmothers sitting on the seats; carefully watch their hands to see if they make the “Thief Sign”. If anyone makes the “Theif Sign”, hold onto your belongings more carefully than you normally would because a “thief” or “pickpocket” is nearby.

The “Thief Sign” is made by putting the hand with the palm sideways with all four fingers extended. Then, all four fingers are bent one at a time to touch the palm until your form a fist. For example, first the “pinky” or small finger is bent in to touch the palm, then the ring finger, then the middle finger, and finally the index finger. This gesture usually takes less than a few seconds to make. (Take a short break now to practice it a few times.)

In Latin America, even if you don’t see the “Thief Sign” while you’re there, it’s very important to watch your personal belongings carefully. If you see the “Thief Sign”, you need to watch them even more carefully than you normally would. During the two years I lived in Latin America, I took tons of buses and walked through thousands of city streets and I was never robbed or pick pocketed. Here are a few of my recommended safety precautions for Latin American travel:
• Don’t wear expensive jewelry such as rings and watches. An $8 Casio watch worked great for me and was not a tempting item to steal.
• Don’t take expensive cameras that might be stolen.
• Put your money and wallets inside a money belt under your clothing.
• If you need to put money in a pocket, put it in your front pants pocket then turn around the pocket lining if possible.
• If you carry bags or purses, don’t wear them over your shoulder, on your back, or put them on the ground. Instead, carry them in front of you with one or both arms around them if possible.
Moral of the Story: These precautions will not guarantee that you won’t be robbed but they should help to prevent it. Remember to watch for the “Thief Sign” on buses and in public places and if you see it, be sure to watch your belongings more carefully.

Sneak peek at next week: The conclusion of our hand gesture series.

¡Hasta la próxima semana! (Until Next Week!)
David S. Clark — President / Director

Click here to learn Spanish.

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