When you’re abroad and don’t speak a language, you may have to rely on pointing, smiling, body language and gestures to get by. Although not foolproof, pantomiming can be a surprisingly effective way of communicating. Nevertheless, even innocent gestures can get lost in translation causing confusion, embarrassment or even offense. Can you imagine that something as (seemingly) easy as holding up 3 fingers to order 3 cups of coffee can get be misunderstood depending where in the world you are?
That’s right, different parts of the world have different ways of counting to 10 or beyond using their hands or even other body parts.
We’ve put together this handy infographic to help our Hong Kong visitors. Although many Hong Kongers speak excellent English, these hand signals could still come in very useful in a local market or crowded restaurant.
Mainland China has a similar, but slightly different finger counting system to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, in Japan, fingers are folded down to represent a number, so to outsiders a thumb tucked in and four fingers raised could be mistaken for 4, when the counter is in fact only counting 1. Interestingly, in some parts of Asia, different sections of the fingers or knuckles are counted to allow for higher numbers.
Equally, in the west people tend to use fingers to count to 10, but how they do that is quite different from China and Hong Kong. Furthermore, there are even slight differences between the UK/US and Western Europe.
Finally, in places such as Papua New Guinea, body counting (which involves pointing to various parts of the body) allows for even higher counting.
Now that you know how to count in Cantonese, let us share some other useful infographics with you. We’ve put them together based on questions our guests in Hong Kong often ask us:
What is the difference between Cantonese and Peking Duck?
Are Macanese and Hong Kong Egg Tarts the same?
Are the terms High Tea and Afternoon Tea interchangeable?