If you're human you've thought about the tradition of shaking hands in the western world. If you're a nurse, you may have even obsessed about this tradition. Why do we shake hands? How safe is this? Should we find another method to seal a deal, introduce ourselves or show how "macho we are?"
The handshake is a culturally accepted ritual. Two people grasp each others hands and briefly move up and down. while making eye contact with each other. In most cultures, the right hand is used.
The tradition of shaking hands dates back to the 5th century BC. in ancient Greece.
Funerary stele of Thrasea and Euandria. Marble, ca. 375-350 BC. Antikensammlung Berlin, Pergamon Museum
Antiochus I of Commagene, shaking hands with Heracles 70-38 BC, British Museum.
It is thought that the culture of shaking hands began as a peace gesture. Because most people are right handed it was a way to show friends and even enemies that your were not holding a gun or another type of weapon. But I think it may be time to question this ancient gesture. We are now much more educated about the way diseases and viruses spread, and I certainly hope we don't have to worry about coworkers having a weapon in their hand during a business meeting. Although, there are the few that enjoy "going postal."
We have all experienced that one person that reached out their hand for us to shake, and we just witnessed them picking their nose, or having their hands in unmentionable places. Yes, we feel obligated to comply with what society says is the "right thing to do." You've been there, right? You want so badly to tell them "thanks, but no thanks." But you go ahead and shake their hand while you cringe inside and run to find the nearest bathroom to wash off the nasty germs.
People routinely shake hands when greeting each other. At the beginning of a meeting, when thanking others, congratulating and to seal the deal. The purpose of a handshake is to demonstrate trust first and foremost, but also equality, and respect. In the United States, it is usually used in the business environment.
In England and other English-speaking countries, more men than women use the handshake in casual situations.
In Switzerland, it is proper to shake the woman's hand first if you are in mixed company.
In countries where the religion is Islamic, it is not acceptable for a man to shake a woman's hand. In Arabic-speaking countries, it's considered rude to have a firm handshake.
In Morocco, the handshake is combined with a kiss on the cheek at the end of the shake and in some countries the handshake is followed by placing the hand on your heart.
In China, it is not acceptable to give a firm handshake. A softer approach is preferred, and it is expected that you hold onto the person's hand for a few seconds longer than what would be acceptable in English speaking countries,
Namaste is used in India instead of the handshake. And this is often followed by a bow. A must less germy way to say hello.
It is traditional in Norway to use a firm handshake when sealing an agreement during business deals.
In South Korea, a senior person will initiate a handshake, It is a sign of respect to grasp the right arm with the left hand when shaking hands. It is also considered rude and very disrespectful to have your free hand in your pocket while shaking hands.
The hand hug is often used by politicians and involves covering the hands with your free hand while you are in the act of shaking. It conveys trust, honesty and friendly. Quite the joke if politicians are engaging in "honesty handshakes."
In Africa when two people are shaking hands it represents a private conversation between two individuals and it's considered rude to interrupt.
I know that instead of teaching kids to cough into their hands, they are instead telling kids to cough into the inside of their arms, But I rarely see them do this,
Also, they are teaching people to do a fist pump instead of doing the shake hands tradition because it causes diseases and viruses to spread.
Buffets are now offering hand sanitizers as you enter. But I've yet to see anyone using them. I believe the only way we can prevent the spread of diseases and viruses at buffets is to offer people individual serving spoons that are either disposed of or thrown into a container to be decontaminated later.
I refuse to dine at buffets anymore. Even though they have "sneeze guards" there are still tons of germs getting all over your food. I was sitting watching a buffet down in the cafeteria the other day while I was eating my lunch that I had brought from home.
There was a long line for the buffet. I also noticed that there was a hand sanitizer dispenser right by the buffet, but not a soul used the damn thing the whole time I watched. Anyway, this kid that was about 15 or so, came in and stood at the end of the food line. He was coughing up a lung, and It was a nasty, productive cough. He was really sick.
He decided after he coughed about 20 times into his hands, that he would go right on through the food line. And as he went to pick up a serving spoon. I could NOT shut my mouth. I jumped up and said, "Oh, no you don't! You need to go and thoroughly wash your hands properly before you come back here and get back in this line. You're passing nasty, dirty contagious germs to other people. Have you no manners?" It absolutely made me sick. He didn't argue with me. But I wonder what these people are teaching their kids. It was horrible to watch.
I think it's time to re-evaluate the way we shake hands and deal with our food. As nurses, we need to advocate the fist pump. It should be the accepted greeting gesture in all cultures, and we should help promote this change by adopting it ourselves. If you don't like the fist pump idea, you should consider the Namaste greeting.
Also, until buffets stop providing one spoon for all people to use, both sick and well. I think it's time for us to eat elsewhere. These changes only take place when consumers demand them and if boycotting is necessary to get the point across then so be it.
Just as Florence Nightingale was renowned for enforcing the importance of handwashing in the 19th century. The nurses of today should be the force behind changing this tradition into something less germ infested.
Till next time,
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