When President Bush swung through Australia on his 10-day trade blitz Down Under and in the Orient earlier this month, he flashed a V-for-victory sign to an Aussie crowd. What he obviously didn't realize was that when he flashed the sign with his palm toward him, he gave the Australians the equivalent of our rude single-finger gesture.
Richard Nixon once stepped off his airplane in South America and gave the waiting crowd an OK sign with his thumb and forefinger forming a circle. The only problem was in that culture, it meant the same as the single-finger gesture.
Or, as Roger Axtell calls it, "cross-cultural communications." Axtell, retired vice president for worldwide marketing for Parker Pen Co., recently wrote a book called "Gestures" (Wiley & Sons, $9.95).