When travelling in a foreign country, and being unable to speak the language, people often use their body language to break down language barriers. It is amazing how much can be understood between people, by using only gestures, facial expressions andsignals. However, body language, like languages, are not universal or consistent across cultures. In Bosnia, there are particular hand gestures individuals should understand before talking to locals, so that they do not offend people or make them feel uncomfortable.
Firstly, a mistake that could be made by travellers is pointing. Waving a pointed finger or pointing directly at someone is considered not only to be extremely rude, but also to be irresponsible. Using these gestures when looking for directions will not be approved by locals, as it is a very confronting action. Instead, using a flat hand would be more appropriate.
Secondly, whilst we understand an erect middle finger is rude, it is taken much more seriously by Bosnians. This gesture would not be acceptable to use in a joking manner, as it is deemed incredibly offensive
Finally, the most important hand gesture to avoid is having your first three fingers erect. While a simple hand placement, its association for Bosnian people is extremely sensitive. The gesture is a sign of victory used only by Serbians. After the break down of former Yugoslavia, and the terrible period of history for the Bosnian people in 1992 to 1995, this gesture is obviously deemed more than offensive, and should always be avoided.
Travelling in Bosnia is seeing dark tourism first hand. Many of the places you will visit and see, will be places of tragedy and loss. This is why, understanding these people, their culture and their history is especially essential.