Ever been to a mamak stall, ask for Maggie mee goreng, the friendly mamak waiter answered you, but it was too noisy and all you got to see was his signature head shakes and you are left with no freaking clue if that was a yes or a no?

You are in luck today, after extensive research and several consultation sessions with proper Tamil friends, I have come up with the answer. The ultimate decryption on the most complicated head shaking culture on earth.

Concentrate when the friendly mamak shakes his head, there are actually 2 different ways. First, as the graphic below points out, the “Type A” shake, the dude actually pivots his nose and swings his chin and forehead in the OPPOSITE direction. When the chin goes left, the forehead goes right, and vice versa. This, my friend, is a YES

mamak saying yes

Now, “Type B”, when the neck is the pivot. The mamak dude will swing his whole head left and right. Pretty much like the prevailing culture’s normal gesture for a NO. It is that simple. Now you wonder why the heck you never thought of it.

mamak saying no

Moral of the lesson:

  • Shake = yes
  • Swing = no
  • My drawings are just so cool
The ultimate mamak guide
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