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Handshakes Around the World

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First impressions go a long way in creating friendships, bond and even sealing business deals. One of the very first forms of introduction with people is through a handshake.

It is, however, to take into account cultural differences and the different handshake etiquette that exist around the globe before going in for a handshake. What might be considered proper behavior in one country may be disrespectful in another.

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For example, Americans prefer their handshakes strong with a good grip whereas Europeans prefer a lighter touch.

Introduce Yourself Right

In the US, you are expected to introduce yourself during a firm handshake. Eye contact is important and so is a firm grip. The same handshake rules apply in Switzerland.

In France, handshakes are light and fast, hardly ever lingering. Family and friends greet each other with kisses on both cheeks. They don’t call it the country of love for no reason.

People are just as fast in their handshakes in Australia where the woman is always expected to extend her hands first.

In Japan, a soft handshake coupled up by a slight bow shows respect. While at it, eye-contact is generally discouraged, and so is a firm grip on the other person’s hand.

Respect in their culture is paramount hence doing anything that will lead to your counterpart losing face could be detrimental to your relationship. Under no circumstance whatsoever should you slap their shoulder?

As much as that could fly elsewhere, it is a no in Japan.

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The Chinese handshake etiquette is much like that of the Japanese with the added rule that you should extend your hand to the eldest person around first. Age is respected in the country.

Handshaking Rules

Different African countries have different customs and beliefs guiding handshakes on the continent. Morocco is an Islamic African country and therefore the Islamic laws of interactions apply.

When greeting people in Morocco, you are only allowed to shake the hands of people of the same sex. The handshake should remain soft.

In East Africa, however, it is considered a sign of respect if you hold your right elbow with your left hand when greeting someone. In Namibia, thumbs are locked in the middle of the handshake.

In Liberia, people slap hands and then execute a complex finger snap.

Longer Handshakes

Mexicans and Latin Americans are traditionally known to hold their handshakes for longer and are demonstrative in their greetings. When greeting women, you are expected to add an air kiss on the cheek as well. With men, a hug after the handshake is usually expected among friends.

When in Thailand, however, keep your hands to yourself. When greeting someone in the country, the person will typically offer what’s called a “wai,”.

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This is done by placing their palms together at chest level and bowing. Return the gesture in the same way. If you’re a man, greet then with “Sawadee-krap.”

If you’re a woman, say “Sawadee-Kah” (both mean “Hello). A handshake is only acceptable if a wai is not offered.

When in the Middle Eastern countries, a soft handshake is the way of the land. If it lingers for longer it shows that you are welcome. The handshake is typically accompanied by the greeting As-salaam Alaykum’ (‘peace be upon you’); the response is ‘Wa Alaykum as-salaam’ (peace be upon you, too).

These countries include Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain among many more. Start by shaking the hand of the oldest, or most senior person there and always greet them by their title.

When in South Korea, the senior person is expected to shake your hand first in a soft handshake. Don’t pocket your free hand but instead clench their right arm with your left hand.



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