This is for the men out there. If you wash your hands after you pee, you should reconsider this. After five rounds of mind-numbing negotiating, the nuts and bolts is set and the documents is squared away. That big-deal offer is now a genuine offer. But wait, let’s not shake on it. Instead, let’s bow down and do the wai.
For the inexperienced, the wai is the traditional bow greeting in Thailand: Press your palms together in prayerlike style and bow your head slightly. The higher your hands, the more respect you reveal. There are analogs throughout Asia, from the Indian namaste to the Cambodian sampeah and Laotian nop; this graceful bowing is used for whatever from saying howdy to customers to asking forgiveness profusely to bidding farewell to organisation partners. The gesture is all feely without the touchy– and one that the Western world should embrace.
Yes, the Western custom of the handshake is spreading its grip all over the world. However it’s not as warm a gesture as it often seems. The original handshake arose as a simple weapons inspect by means of the ancient Romans, who, upon first encounter, latched onto each other’s arms to feel for any weapons hidden up the sleeves. It had little to do with demonstrating “character, inspiration, self-confidence [or] assertiveness,” states Sharon Schweitzer, a cross-cultural consultant and rules specialist based in Texas.
Nowadays, etiquette workshops and online body-language tutorials routinely produce advice on ways to provide the perfect handshake. The wrong sort of grip might leave a bad impression for years to come, however a company one, they say, might land you a desirable task or wow that gorgeous stranger. And oh, the significance we credit to the handshake! In June, China’s President Xi Jinping shook the hand of Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang at the Asian Facilities Investment Bank conference in Beijing. Reports rapidly surfaced that this “Shake-gate” was Xi’s nod of approval for Tsang to be the next chief executive of the $100 billion business. All due to the fact that of a glorified palm rub?
Beyond the power politics, handshakes are also natural cars for spreading infectious illness. They’re ticking germ bombs– with the CDC estimating that almost 80 percent of infections are transmitted by hands, which brim with countless bacteria and viruses.
This led Dr. Tom McClellan of West Virginia University to laud a safer salutation– the fist bump– while other health officials promoted the elbow bump throughout Haiti’s cholera break out, Mexico’s swine influenza scare and the recent Ebola epidemic. However fist bumps are too bro-ey and elbow bumps are just uncomfortable. Imagine knocking elbows with your future boss at a high-stakes job interview. (McClellan did not react to requests for remark.).
The European and Latin American kisses on the cheeks are even likelier to pass on the influenza. However the ick factor for the Asian bow? Absolutely no. It’s an all-in-one, touch-free alternative rooted in humbleness instead of power trips. Still, Schweitzer, the etiquette expert, frets about cultural appropriation. Each culture’s greetings are “honored,” and poaching another’s may be “ill-mannered to the heritage and custom-mades of the nation’s elders,” she discusses.
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