One-Degree from Double Happiness – Chinese Number Hand Gestures
No matter how long we’ve all lived in Hong Kong, all of us expats have one thing in common – we all suck at the Chinese language (unless, you know, you grew up speaking Chinese). If, like me, you were at the Russel Peters show in Macau in February, you may well remember him hammering a British lady for not being able to communicate in Cantonese. Truth is – it’s a really difficult language, especially for the tone deaf (like me) and English is spoken everywhere in HK, so you basically don’t need to know it! We all know Mandarin has four tones, but Cantonese has NINE tones, I mean how the heck are we supposed to learn that! Answer: Baby Steps!
Number Hand Gestures
Chinese is different in that they only use one hand for numbers up to ten. Some of the gestures are based on the Chinese characters for that number too, however it can be confusing as there are subtle variations practiced in Hong Kong, as compared to Mainland China and even overseas Chinese communities in Singapore and Malaysia. For this article, we’ll focus on what we use in HK. Let’s get you started!
One’s easy – index finger straight up in the air
Index and middle finger straight up in the air. Don’t worry about doing it the wrong way round – it’s not what it means in the West!!
Middle three fingers straight up in the air.
Four fingers extended upwards, thumb tucked in.
Thumb and fingers extended outwards.
Now’s where it starts to get difficult:
Imagine the gesture for using a phone – little finger and thumb sticking out, palm facing inwards, horizontally. This looks similar to the character for six.
Remember “All Star” by Smash Mouth? “She was looking kinda dumb with her finger and her thumb, in the shape of an ‘L’ on her forehead…”
Well that’s exactly what it is, except you need to point your index finger upwards, to the left, palm facing inwards. Looks similar to the character for eight, but in HK it’s seven, because it looks like a seven. Don’t worry, you’re not a loser…
Tips of thumb, index and middle fingers touching, pointed upwards at an angle. This gesture is seven in other Chinese communities. No freakin’ idea how they came up with this one. Wanna express double happiness? Chinese revere this number for good luck! Well, you know what to do :-)
Captain Hook. Extend your index finger into a hook. Don’t make the hook too large. Thumb and other fingers closed into palm. Get it wrong and you’ll walk the plank…
Closed fist, palm facing inwards. Almost militant like. There are variations of this, but this is what is most commonly used in HK.
So there you have it, folks! You can now count to ten without needing to even say a word! You’re welcome ;-)
Nikhil Gidwani was raised locally and is a proud Hong Konger. After a few years of living and working overseas, he has recently returned to the Asia’s World City. When he’s not working, Nikhil spends much of his time hiking and visiting different parts of Hong Kong in order to find new material for his Instagram page. .