The Real Reason Why It's Rude To Point

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man in suit pointing finger

It is not rude to point at things, but it’s rude to point at people. Or at least sometimes — it really depends on where you live.

But why is it rude to point?

If you grew up in the United States, you were probably instructed by a number of adults to not point at others.

Did those adults ever explain exactly why pointing fingers is so rude?

No offense, but probably not. Everybody knows that adults usually hate explaining things to children because they themselves don't know the answers.

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In the United States, it's rude to point at people because it is associated with blame allocation.

Apparently, a long time ago, pointing the index finger was thought to administer a hex. 

There are some instances where pointing is necessary, of course. But in these cases, it's always more to polite with an open hand rather than your index finger. 

If you point a finger, you likely won't administer a hex, but you might insult someone or hurt their feelings. 

Hand Gesture Etiquette from Around the World

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Hand Gesture Etiquette in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, if you throw up a peace sign with the back of your hand facing forward it’s incredibly insulting.

However, a peace sign with your palm facing away from you is considered harmless.

Hand Gesture Etiquette in Malaysia

There are some instances in the United States where pointing is warranted and acceptable. For example, i someone asks you for directions and you point, “that way,” it’s not considered rude.

In Malaysia, however, pointing with your index finger under any circumstance is considered to be offensive and inappropriate.

The alternative is to point with your right thumb.

Hand Gesture Etiquette in Thailand

In Thailand, patting someone on the head is considered to be a serious offense.

Travel blogger Talek Nantes explains that in Thailand, the head “is considered the most sacred part of the body.”

Pointing with the toe of your foot is also a disgrace, as the feet are considered the filthiest body part. Pointing your feet towards someone in general is also rude.

Hand Gesture Etiquette in Iran

In the United States, giving someone a thumbs-up is seen as a kind gesture of encouragement.

In Iran, the thumbs-up is no different than the American middle finger.

Hand Gesture Etiquette in Vietnam

In Vietnam, crossing your fingers is an extremely vulgar hand gesture to make. 

Hand Gesture Etiquette in the Philippines

In the Philippines, you should definitely not making a single-finger beckoning motion.

It’s how people summon dogs or animals, so to beckon someone with a finger is incredibly demeaning.

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Izzy Casey is a writer who covers pop culture, news, and entertainment.