As a Society — Just Forget About Shaking Hands
Will raising of eyebrows be the handshake of the future?
The first time I greeted a Spanish man, he kissed me three times on the cheeks. Although he was a good friend of the family, I was caught off guard and nearly lost my balance from the surprise. I was expecting a handshake and the cultural shock was a fact.
In the first months of 2020, a trending status update in my social media feed has been about people who miss hugging. Humans are a social species, and when the interaction between us is taken away, we quickly become aware of how social we are.
The human touch is an integrated part of our lives. We don’t notice how much we need it until it’s gone. Touching each other and being close to other people are parts of our survival instinct. We use touch as a sign of bonding with strangers or people you do business with. It is a sign of trust, agreement, and relationship — new or old.
Signing a contract is the legal action when making an agreement. The handshake is a visual formality and is not needed for the agreement itself.
Is it time to stop shaking hands?
“As a society, just forget about shaking hands” — Anthony Fauci, White House Advisor
During the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. White House Advisor Anthony Fauci stated that the time of handshakes should be over (White House advisor Dr. Fauci says handshaking needs to stop). There is no need to use this ancient gesture in 2020 or ever again, he claimed. He was later backed by several people in the health sector.
Why should a handshake survive as a greeting gesture? Do you want to shake hands with anyone at the moment? To many, this has been a wake-up call regarding how much our hands touch throughout the day. Wouldn’t it make sense to leave this greeting style behind? It would prevent the spreading of diseases dramatically.
Why do we shake hands in the first place?
Let’s go back to a time when we drew weapons more often than we do today. According to history.com (What Is The Origin Of The Handshake), the handshake from ancient times would indicate that you did not have a weapon drawn. An interesting theory about the up and down motion is that it would dislodge any hidden daggers or knives.
We don’t need this gesture anymore to check for weapons. Most people don’t carry swords or daggers anymore.
The handshake survived and is still used today. Not just as a gesture of peace, but as a general greeting — When you meet friends or strangers.
How We Greet
Humans have greeted each other in many ways throughout history. There are cultural differences and one could easily offend someone if you don’t learn the interaction patterns in the region you are visiting.
There are many greeting styles. Some involve touching, others don’t. Here’s a brief overview of a chosen few (Cultural Etiquette):
Japan — Bow and shake hands
Norway — Shake hands with everyone when you meet and leave.
United States — Brief handshake, expected in business situations, not always in social gatherings.
China — Shake hands, some may nod or bow instead of shaking hands
Brazil — Married women kiss once on each cheek. Single women add a third kiss
Italy — Shake hands with everyone when you meet and leave. Friends can kiss each other on the cheek.
India — Greet with “namaste” holding both hands together and bow.
Thailand — Wai, place palms together with fingers extended at chest level and bow
New Zealand Maori — Press noses together, sometimes foreheads as well (Hongi)
There are several ways to greet and there are different rules when it comes to business or social gatherings. There seems to be a lot of touching in this world, but you can also see that countries like India and Thailand have a greeting that works from a distance without any touching involved.
On the other end of the scale, you have the Eskimo kiss and the Maori Hongi greeting, where your noses touch. It is quite intimate.
No more hongi or handshakes
Earlier this year, Ngāti Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, replaced the hongi and handshakes with the raising of eyebrows. (No more Hongi or handshakes) The very intimate greeting was stopped to prevent the spreading of diseases. It will most likely return after this considering how iconic the greeting is in the Maori culture.
We might never shake hands again, but I have to remind myself and co-workers during video calls that we should pull our pens out of our mouths. I also can not believe how many times per day I want to touch my face somehow… So even though we might stop spreading on a national level, we still have some minor local issues to iron out.
If our paths cross in the future, I might greet you with a Wai or a Namaste.
It’s a start! Replacing the handshake with an Indian Namaste- or a Thai Wai greeting will be valid replacements.
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