In my last blog post about the Coronavirus I discussed the history of the handshake and shared some of my personal experience. Ever since SARS I have felt reluctant to shake hands and touch objects like subway handrails. Now that we are deep into the first round of the pandemic it’s worth asking questions about how we will interact in the future. Is the handshake doomed? Will people drop the custom en masse? It seems likely.

If the handshake is unfavourable what will take it’s place? It’s customary to have some kind of physical interaction in North America. If we don’t kiss or hug in greeting we tend to stick out our hands for a handshake, fist bump or high five.

Some countries, especially in Asia (China, Korea, Japan) and South East Asia (India, Bangladesh) have a long history of using bows as a greeting. This is profoundly different from handshakes, primarily in the form of distance between participants.

I found a few videos about replacing handshakes and one word kept coming up, “namaste.” This word originates from Sanskrit, an ancient language used in South East Asia. The use of this greeting is not confined to any specific region as practitioners of yoga, for one example, have used namaste greetings in countries all over the world.

The Wikipedia article discusses the history of the practice along with issues such as cultural appropriation: “Western uses of namaste, as a slogan or spoken during fitness classes, are often perceived as an insensitive misappropriation of the greeting.” This is interesting since world leaders are among those who are now starting to employ this contact-less greeting.

I’d like to share a really great video with you from YouTube user Humtog.   

Description from the video caption:

Handshakes are one of the filthiest ways of greeting someone due to the amount of germs exchanged. It spreads various types of diseases rapidly and causes millions of people to get sick every year.

There has been many campaigns to ban handshakes from sensitive environments like hospitals, but it hasn’t been successful till now due to how socially prevalent handshakes are. This video is an effort to bring attention to this problem.

What do you think? Watch the video, take a few notes, and consider the various points of argument.

Don’t forget to check out my study sheets – available free to my students. Email me and I’ll set you up with the PDF.

All the best! Stay safe!




Design and writing by Mike Simpson

Images from Wikipedia. Photo of woman doing namaste greeting in collage image by Wikipedia user Sumita Roy Dutta.