Every culture has gestures or facial expressions that have a meaning even without words. Every person brought up in a particular culture (or having spent a sufficient amount of time in it) will understand them. For example, Italians are particularly renowned for underlining their utterances by countless gestures (please find examples here). However, in a foreign culture, one will at times encounter non-verbal communication one can’t quite locate…
If he were asked to make the most German gesture he can think of, my husband would doubtless do The Pout. Germans use The Pout a lot. They use it when they listen carefully (along with The Squint and The Frown – we might call it ‘The PSF’; it looks fierce but is just a Germanic way of saying ‘I’m taking what you are saying seriously’). They use it when they are weighing up the pros and cons of something. They use (or maintain) it when they intend to qualify their ‘Yes’. In fact, The Pout can put a little tag on anything. A tag saying, ‘Why not?’ A tag saying, ‘It could be worse’ (for example, when asked how things are going). A tag saying, ‘It could be better’ (for example, when asked how things are going).
So The Pout is big. Any self-respecting German has it in her box of tricks. In fact, I’m sure I heard that it has recently been included in a newly-introduced practical part of the Einbürgerungstest (‘Demonstrieren Sie drei typisch deutsche Gesten’).
The other day, Mr K and I were sitting at our dinner table. I asked him if he’d like a yogurt. And there it was! I couldn’t believe it. He pouted, and then said ‘Yes’. At that moment I knew that, even without an Einbürgerungstest, he was properly naturalised. Above his head a blinking yellow sign said, ‘Germanisation completed’. It was an ‘Oi!’ moment. (You know, when Charlotte in Sex and the City, in the process of converting to Judaism, said her first ‘Oi!’) I was so proud.
Next week, we’ll revisit gestures and learn what fingers can tell you.
The Pommes Buddha says: When in doubt, use The Pout.
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