Is rolling your eyes a culturally specific or global gesture?

If I rolled my eyes in Japan or Zimbabwe or Indonesia, would the average local know what I meant?

Petty common in China, HKm and Taiwan.



If it does turn out to be a universal gesture, why would it be that the specific gesture of rolling your eyes means exasperation everywhere?

In Japan yes.
In India also, yes.

Im not sure if its something picked up from American TV shows though…

The closest thing in Spain is what we call “cara de paciencia” (“patience face”), which may consist of a single step or of two. The whole sequence consists of looking up to Heaven and then looking back down at the exasperating person; the version which leads to people saying “don’t you dare look patiently at me” is when you’re refraining from the looking-up part and get pretty much the exact same expression as an American who is refraining from eye-rolling.

In a way, the “looking up to Heaven (with or without a sigh and with or without a prayer)” is just a “bigger” version of the American gesture. We talk more with our hands than Americans do, we’re also more likely to use our whole face than just the eyes.

I’ve seen some actors do it on TV, but AFAI can tell it’s an affectation, they’ve just watched too many American movies…