Archaeological ruins in ancient Greece supports the theory that the handshake is ancient. An uncovered funerary stele, or monument, from the 5th century BC depicts two soldiers shaking hands. Older records from Egypt suggests that the handshake held a different kind of power...the power of giving. According to Babylonian customs, kings would grasp the hand of the statue of the god Marduk before taking the throne. This act was repeated annually at the festival of Zagmuk to carry his power over into the next year.
Although some version of the handshake is practiced nearly everywhere in the world today, many countries have their own customs regarding this greeting. To celebrate National Handshake Day, I thought it would be fun to look at a few of those customs. First impressions mean a great deal, so knowing how to shake hands appropriately can be a big asset, especially when you are traveling abroad.
China - Age matters here so always greet the oldest people first. (I'm pretty sure that goes for greeting frogs, too!) Lightly grip the hand and bow slightly, avoiding direct eye contact. And hold onto the person's hand for a moment or two after the handshake is completed.
Brazil - Expect a firm handshake and one that lasts longer than you're probably used to. use strong eye contact. And greet women with a light kiss on either cheek. Repeat this process when you leave.
Philippines - Most Asiatic countries follow China's lead; the exception being in the Philippines. Here, you want to look the other person straight in the eye and do not bow. A weak grip is a must, however.
Australia - if you're a woman shaking a man's hand, you must offer your hand first. Typically, women there don't shake hands with other women. Use a firm, fast shake. And don't ever use both hands, as do many politicians.
France - Whether it's the first time you meet someone...or the 101st time, shake their hand quickly and lightly. If you're close, a kiss on both cheeks is appropriate.
Russia - Never shake hands with the opposite sex unless it's a business situation. Traditionally, men kiss the hand of a woman. If you are shaking hands, make is very, very firm...like bone-crushing firm!
Turkey - Firm handshakes here are considered rude! In Turkey, handshakes are held for a long time. Don't be concerned, though, it's a sign of friendship!
South Korea - The most senior person should start the handshake, and the grip should be soft. Feel free to clench their right arm with your held hand, too.
Morocco - Only shake hands with people of the same gender and be gentle. If a woman wants to shake your hand, she will offer hers, first.
United Arab Emirates - Start by shaking the hand of the oldest, or most senior person first. Greet them with their title and expect the handshake to linger awhile. Let them be the first one to disengage.
Kenya - When greeting elders or those of high status, grab the wrist of the left hand and say "Jambo" which means "How are you". Afterward, ask them about their family or business. Here, that's not considered rude or inappropriate.
Mexico - Expect a lasting handshake. If you're a man, a hug may be in order. Women, generally, kiss each other on the cheek.
Norway - Here, you are expected to shake hands with everyone...no matter how many there are in the group. Address each person with their first and last name. Never ask, "How are you?" To a Norwegian, it's meaningless conversational fluff.
Thailand - Don't shake hands here! The other person will place their palms together, at chest level, and bow. This is called a "wai." Return the gesture. If you're a man, greet them with "Sawadee-krap." If you're a woman, then say, "Sawadee-kah." Both mean a polite "Hello." You shake hands only is a "wai" is not offered.
The best way to celebrate National Handshake Day is by shaking the hand of at least one person you would not have, on any other day. And wish them a good day, while you are doing it. Of course, use #NationalHandshakeDay on all your social media.
It's hard to believe, but June is already winding down; the first half of 2019 has flown by. Join me here tomorrow for a look at the July Calendar of Special Days. With so much of summer left to enjoy, I know you'll find all kinds of great things to celebrate. So let the partying begin!