Handshake greetings have been used for many centuries and are widely accepted as the most common form of greeting with some people also practicing parting handshakes. It’s said to have started in Medieval Europe where Knights would shake hands with the other in an attempt to shake loose any hidden weapons. It later grew into a symbol of peace showing that neither is carrying a weapon. Over the years, the handshake evolved into many other things such as a kind gesture of saying hello, a binding or agreement sign in making a deal, in a business deal, a refusal to shake hands as a sign of dissatisfaction and later was used as a measure of one’s character by how firm their handshake is.
Although handshakes are all this important, they were not the original form of greetings gestures. There have been and still are several others. Some of these gestures are; hat raising or tapping as a sign of recognition of superiority used by men before the 20th century, the Arabic ‘salaam’ meaning peace where one places the right hand on the other person heart, Chinese placed the right first on the other person left arm, in India ‘namaste‘ where both palms are pressed together close to the heart with a gentle bow, the Japanese bow, the European cheek kiss among many other greeting gestures.
Recently with the outbreak of coronavirus, there has been an extensive campaign on how to wash hands properly and regularly, the importance of sanitizing and handshakes have been discouraged. These are some of the precautions to help reduce spread or contracting the virus. The last few days have seen panic shopping of hand wash soaps, sanitizers and wet wipes in the major cities. It is said that body contact such as greetings aid in its spread among many other mediums. This has forced people to literally avoid handshake and it being something we are accustomed to, feels strange. I have seen people struggle not to use the gesture that they have gone to fist-bumping especially the men viewing it as a less harmful gesture but contact is contact, right?
Until this whole mess cools down, and the virus is contained probably longer after all this, we will be forced to let go of this dearly loved handshake and the many other gestures that involved contact such as hugs. For now, waving and a polite verbal hello will have to suffice, maybe they will stick and be the new norm of greeting gesture globally and handshakes will be a thing of the past, forgotten after the COVID-19 menace. Maybe it will be a story just like hat-tipping is today. As you get comfortable with no handshake, may you observe all the other corona precautions and be safe.