Sunday, February 10, 2013

The International Sign for Wine

"A bottle of red, a bottle of white 
Whatever kind of mood you're in tonight 
I'll meet you anytime you want In our Italian Restaurant. "

--Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Billy Joel--

Yes, that's a chianti bottle candle stick holder

Well, it was more like a 1/2 liter of "rood" and a 1/2 liter of "wit" for my wife and I last night. That's what we ordered from our Italian waiter in "our Italian Restaurant" in the Netherlands. But our wine selections from last evening is not the interesting part, it's how we came about ordering them.

How you say....."carafe of wine" 
Photo Credit: Vicki Szostek
I got the sense that our waiter's comprehension of English was a bit shaky. Mix that with our inability to speak Italian or Dutch and you get a blog post.  When it came time to place our drink order we both tried ordering "a carafe" of wine.  We saw the puzzlement on our waiters face at first, then collectively my wife and I use our hands and make some type of gesture that in our minds was symbolic of a carafe.  Our hand motions must have worked, the confused glaze disappeared from his face and he asked us if we wanted a 1/2 liter or 1 liter of wine.  ALL RIGHT WE'RE IN BUSINESS!  Here comes my favorite part.  When we told him what kind of wine we wanted he was still a bit unsure, so just to confirm our selections with us, he pointed to the red table cloth and pointed to me, then he pointed to the white table cloth and pointed to my wife.  It was awesome.  

It got me thinking about communication and how when verbal means are not an option, we quickly adapt to find some type of non-verbal method to convey our message.  In our case, making a hand gesture where by placing our right hand about 8 inches about our left hands is obviously the international sign for a carafe of wine. And in the case of our waiter, pointing to the colors of the table cloth helped him confirm our order.

I've caught myself a few times since moving to the Netherlands making funny hand gestures when I sense the other person isn't grasping what I was saying.  Like the other night, when I asked the waitress for a jug of water, I made a similar hand motion to the one carafe of wine.  It's not often that I let my hands do the talking  because most folks we've encountered have an excellent grasp of English, but when it does happen I wish I could video myself to see how funny I look.  

Have you ever found yourself making (clean) hand gestures to communicate?  


  1. Yes I had to:)) was in France Paris first trip alone some 30 years ago, in a hotel and got for breakfast greenbeans with something like brown stewmeat,and terreble strong coffee not to drink even I would get a million cash for it!! I really wanted be sure that I got a proper breakfast what I had in mind for France would get the following days,Told them with my hands together and my face as sleeping eyes closed and then open them with pointing on mij watch was ment to say tomorrow after I slept ... and then I made the right chickensound KUKKELEKUKKELEKUUUUHHHHH and said tok tok tok wass mend as egg of course added as word croissant and held the spoon in the coffecup as straigt up standed to strong! Gues what! what did I get next morning get for breakfast!? a nice boiled eg with croisant butter jelly and a very nice cup of coffee,exactly as I had in mind I would get when I was on holiday in Paris! At that time I didnt speak Englisch just Dutch not French at all as croisant:)) So I àm so glad I had the nerve to sound like a chicken:)) Would You do sounds of animals??

    1. Great comment gjamh! Thanks for sharing. That's a really funny story. I haven't done animal sounds yet, but never say never. And you're French is about the same as mine. Cheers!