The People's Friend

This month’s Talking Point

What’s happened to the handshake?


AT a recent event, one of the “Friend” team met someone who greeted folk with three air kisses. They’d just got used to two being the norm!

Greetings can be confusing. There are huggers, handshaker­s, air kissers . . . and misjudging someone’s approach can be decidedly embarrassi­ng.

Until recently, hugs and kisses were mainly for family members and close friends. Now they seem to be everywhere – even in business meetings!

Debretts, the authority on English good manners, advises, “Shaking hands is a standard form of greeting and may be used socially and profession­ally, to greet strangers and people you know, and has no age or gender barriers.”

But the rules aren’t standard any more. The people we meet might come from other countries and background­s or have different customs. Even the “safe” handshake has its drawbacks.

Leaving aside the thorny issue of quality (from the “wet fish” to the “crusher” and all stages in between) there’s evidence that in some settings it’s not the best option. Shaking hands can be quite an effective way of transmitti­ng germs along with goodwill.

Back in 2012, the British Olympic team was advised to avoid handshakes in the run-up to the games, to avoid the risk of catching a bug. Some hospitals also ban them to reduce infection rates.

In fact, research has shown that the muchmalign­ed air kiss, or better still, the fist bump, are preferable. Some cruise ships have even instituted the “cruise bump” – a modified fist bump using only two knuckles to keep everyone hale and hearty on the high seas.

What we do depends on the context and people’s preference­s, but it looks like these newer forms of greeting are here to stay.

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