Mainly for motorists

The term Teutonic greeting refers to two rather different phenomena. The second one below is a bit light-hearted, but well worth considering, particularly if you happen to be driving through Germany. Anyway, the term as such may be used to designate:

  1. a ritual greeting supposedly practiced by an ancient Germanic tribe, the Teutons, inhabitants of the Jutland peninsula of present-day Denmark; or
  2. a hand signal, used by contemporary motorists for insulting purposes, mainly on German Autobahns and congested German city streets.

The modern 'Teutonic greeting' (number (2) above) is a continental response to the need for offensive, insulting gestures by drivers of motor vehicles in the confused, confounded traffic of central Europe.

Premium on efficiency

Any efficient insulting gesture should be highly visible. Its offending nature must be easily and clearly understood. The gesture should also be simple to perform in a complex traffic environment, without interfering with the driving abilities of the insulting party.

Gestures like 'the finger' or the 'obscene fist' have their geocultural limitations, because Northern Europeans -- in contrast to Southern / Eastern Europeans and Americans -- are for the most part insensitive to sexual insults. Words like 'motherfucker' and 'cocksucker' (in their geolinguistically applicable translations) only sound supremely ridiculous, but hardly offending.

Here the 'Teutonic greeting' gesture comes to the rescue of the infuriated motorist. The practical basics of the gesture are as follows:

  1. Look your opponent straight in the face.
  2. Tap your right temple with your right index finger a few times (the finger should be slightly bent).

Casting doubt on the mental health of your adversary

The semantics of this activity should be clearly understandable to everyone -- you are casting doubt on the intelligence, mental balance and sanity of your opponent. In a traffic situation this gesture is easy to perform and it is immensely more intimitating (to Northern / Western Europeans) than casting doubt on someone's sexual powers or the fidelity of his / her sexual partner.

As the epithet 'Teutonic' indicates, this particular variant of the large number of available insulting traffic gestures is prevalent in the Germanic-speaking parts of Europe, particularly in Germany. Even if the Teutons were originally a tribe living in Jutland, this designation does no longer apply to the Jutlandish Danes. Today it has migrated southward, to cover their southern neighbours, the Germans.


In Germany this gesture is bound to infuriate almost everybody, particularly offending motorists. So don't use it, unless you are well prepared for serious fisticuffs or have an absolutely foolproof escape route!

       / . . \  ---  tap, tap            
       |  |  |    /               
        \ ^ /    |         (This ASCII person IS tapping his RIGHT 
         | |     |          temple -- while looking in the mirror)


Empirical observations by noder, while driving in Germany -- with no particular place to go.

    gwenllian says: Just a note... it is also ILLEGAL in Germany, and you can find yourself in civil or criminal court because of it (which does not deter my mom one bit).

    skow says: Tapping the temple signifies that someone is smart in this small part of northern Europe.

    sloebertje says: Not sure where skow gets his information from, but in /my/ part of the Netherlands tapping your temple would also be quite insulting. My colleague agrees :)

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