Body Language in Colombia (Assignment – Week 6)

Body language throughout South America differs greatly, with Colombia having many unique and interesting ways of communicating. Colombian’s use hand gestures, facial expressions and greetings to create a vast array of communicating without words, which would be helpful to know for any traveler desiring to visit.

The most well known of these would is a generally warmer style of greeting that can be found all over South America with a few specialities in Colombia.

More specific to Colombia, however, is the large array of hand gestures that range from insults to directions and warnings.  The most interesting and different from Australia, in my opinion, are:

  • (Paila) Is when you cut your neck with your open palm – This signifies that something is wrong or something isn’t working


  • (Tacaño) Is when you hit the bottom of your elbow and is used to demonstrate that someone is ‘stingy’ generally as an insult


  • (Tetiado) is when you scrunch your fingers together and is an interesting example of how hand gestures change across cultures as in Italy it means “what the **** do you want,” however in Colombia it means a place is full (packed with people)


  • (Ladron) Is when you lightly scratch your cheek and is used as a warning to locals and travellers that their is a thief about


  • Finally gestures are not only used as meaning but also to give directions – the Lip Point is used instead of pointing with your index finger to give directions or draw attention to something and should be mistaken as being blown a kiss


With studies showing that roughly 55% of communication can occur through body language and facial expressions, understanding how Colombian’s communicate is essential for understanding the culture they live in.

This unique style of communicating in Colombia might make travellers feel confused as they are not used to the warm and  encompassing culture. However after the initial shock most travellers will get used to and enjoy the different Culture.

Click here for more information on body language and here for more information on gestures.

photo’s taken from (


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