Okay, before I go on with the difference, I have to apologize for my red, worn, nail-less man hands. I tried every editing feature to make them more presentable but nothing was the magic wand I wanted. Au natural it is.
I love this little difference. It makes me giggle. Especially when I think back to some of the early exchanges I've had with baristas and store clerks. Here in Luxembourg (all of Europe?) when using your fingers to count or to show an amount, you start with your thumb. Holding up your thumb means 1, thumb and index finger means 2, thumb, index and middle finger means 3.
In the U.S. you start counting with your index finger - holding up an index finger means 1. You wouldn't use your thumb until showing 5.
I didn't clue into this for quite a while - maybe 2 or 3 months into our move. I read about it in my Living in Luxembourg book about 2 months into our move, but dismissed it as one of those things that isn't really practiced. But then I started to notice. I saw it all over. At the Little Gym when the teacher counted it was always this way. Then I remembered a few harder-than-it-should-have-been experiences I had ordering.
I would say: un cafe, s'il vous plait. And hold up my index finger.
They would say: un ou deux?
I would say: un. And hold up my index again.
They would say: un?
I would say: oui, un. And hold up my index.
I'd think: I know my French is horrible and my accent is ridiculous, but I do know my numbers and I'm making it sooo clear by holding up my finger, what's the problem?
Little did I know that holding up an index finger means 2 EVEN if your thumb is not up as well. Because your index finger is the second finger, it is assumed you mean 2.
Whew. I got it now and LOVE showing off European finger counting ability. When you come visit I'll order for ya. Really, it's no problem. I got it.