Count Numbers On Your Hand – In Different Countries

Adrian Qais 10

The Count!

 

After watching Inglorious Bastards and the ‘finger-counting scene’ in the bar – I was intrigued to find out if different nationalities really do count numbers differently on their hands.

 

If you don’t know the scene I mean… here you go:

 

So after some ‘intensive investigating’ at one of the few places in Tokyo that foreigners congregate – I was genuinely shocked by how different we all are!

 

Here’s what I found:

 

North America and UK

Hand Signal:

When someone from North America or the UK count numbers on their hand it starts with the extension of the index finger (number 1) and continues to the little finger (number 4). The ‘number 5’ is then represented by extending all the fingers and thumb. The exact same process is repeated on the other hand if you want to count up to 10.

count-numbers-on-hand-suitqais-diaries-1

For example:

If an English man wants 8 fish and chips he opens one palm entirely and on the other extends the index and two middle fingers.

count-numbers-on-hand-suitqais-diaries

 

Western Europe

(i.e. Germans, Italians, Spanish, French)

Hand Signal:

When Western Europeans count numbers on their hands the thumb represents the ‘number 1’ and the index finger is ‘number 2’ and so on and so forth… with the little finger representing the ‘number 5’. Fingers are generally extended while counting, beginning at the thumb and finishing at the little finger.

Counting Hands

For example:

If a German wanted to order 3 Bratwurst she would use her thumb, index, middle finger.

count-numbers-on-hand-suitqais-diaries-3

 

China

Chinese count numbers in exactly the same as the UK and North America… but counting from 6 to 10 gets kind of funky!

Instead of explaining it’s easier if I just show you…

count-numbers-on-hand-suitqais-diaries-16

 

Japan

In Japan count numbers up to 5 on one hand is the same as the UK and North America with the index finger representing the ‘number 1’ the thumb representing the ‘number 5’. For 6 to 10 the appropriate numbers of fingers from the other hand are placed against an open palm.

For example:

If a Japanese man wants to order 7 bits of sushi he simply places his index and middle finger against his open palm.

count-numbers-on-hand-suitqais-diaries-15

 

And that’s it for my ‘extensive’ research at my language school….

 

If you count differently in your country don’t be shy to post a comment below and teach us all your freaky ways 😉

 

Happy travels and good luck exploring!

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10 Comments »

  1. anon August 22, 2013 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    I count starting with my smallest finger and end with my thumb and continue with my smallest finger on my other hand when counting more than 5. No idea where I got it from but I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember.

    • Adrian Qais August 24, 2013 at 12:22 am - Reply

      That’s brilliant! You’re the first person I know who counts like that… where are you from?

  2. Alice November 9, 2013 at 12:07 am - Reply

    Interesting, but do people always show the palm side or the back of the hand to others when counting?

    Don’t want to be picky, but did you have to show a MALE hand when saying “If a German wanted to order 3 Bratwurst SHE would use HER thumb, index, middle finger”? You can take political correctness just a bit too far. Why not use the plural “If Germans wanted…. they would use their….”

  3. Alice November 9, 2013 at 12:22 am - Reply

    BTW. The film is a Hollywood abomination of bad taste, bad history, bad acting, bad everything – even its title is off the mark: “Basterds” and not “Bastards”.

  4. Tara September 22, 2014 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Adrian!

    That’s a very nice overview with great pictures.
    Can confirm what you show for Germany.
    You (and the movie) are correct!

    1 = thumb
    2 = thumb + index finger
    3 = thumb + index finger + middle finger
    4 = index finger + middle finger + ring finger + little finger
    5 = high five five!

    And I like Bratwurst very much, but dislike Sauerkraut.

    Friendly greetings from Berlin! ☺

  5. Tara September 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    (sorry, there was a typo in my Mail-address…here again *blush*)
    Thank you, Adrian!

    That’s a very nice overview with great pictures.
    Can confirm what you show for Germany.
    You (and the movie) are correct!

    1 = thumb
    2 = thumb + index finger
    3 = thumb + index finger + middle finger
    4 = index finger + middle finger + ring finger + little finger
    5 = high five!

    And I like Bratwurst very much, but dislike Sauerkraut.

    Friendly greetings from Berlin! ☺

  6. Sonja November 15, 2014 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    This is very interesting! Thanks for taking the time to share.

  7. H July 3, 2016 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    From the UK and I have never seen anybody count with their index finger first.

  8. D. G. Blackwell December 17, 2016 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I count left to right, thumb, index, fore finger etc then on the right hand go from little finger through to thumb. Looking around my friends and family, this appears to be the norm in the U.K.

  9. D. G. Blackwell December 17, 2016 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I count left to right, thumb, index, fore finger etc then on the right hand go from little finger through to thumb. Looking around my friends and family, this appears to be the norm in the .uk and also in my Thai wifes family and friends

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