The handshake is back, kind of, this caused a mess of etiquette


Mark Read is the CEO of the global advertising giant WPP, and now he is back to see clients in the business world where vaccinations are increasing, and he is happily shaking hands with them.

“For people I don’t know, this is an icebreaker,” he told me last week. “The elbow matter has disappeared, of course to me.”

Sir Douglas Flint, newly renamed chairman Abden Asset management companies have formulated a more cautious attack plan for this new stage of unstable Covid behavior.

“Of course I wouldn’t walk into the room and give a helping hand,” he said. Instead, he will shrink back and wait to see what people like. “You kind of let them take the first step, and then you fall behind them in a nanosecond.”

After several days of very unscientific investigation, I don’t know which of these two greeting strategies is more common. But I can report that there is no doubt that there is chaos outside.

The uneven state of vaccination, coupled with the vastly different perceptions of safe behavior, divide us into an awkward combination of shaking, bumper and fist.

Alas, the results can be terrible. A man who lives in Germany worked with a friend of mine in London and had a particularly cruel time in the last month’s UEFA European Football Championship match between England and Scotland.

As he wrote to my friends: “I met some new friends at the bar. Everyone had fists colliding, so I did the same. Then another guy came in. I stretched out my fist and he went to shake hands.

Neither of them reacted fast enough, and the handshake preferred a long handshake. “So we just stood there for a long time, and he just held and shook my protruding arm stump like a ball and socket joint.”

The untimely collision between the fist buffer and the handshake is not limited to Germany. From Sydney to San Diego, I heard that they are turning ordinary opening jokes into a painful paper-scissors rock game.

In the United States, the situation seems particularly worrying. Nearly 70% of adults have been injected with Covid at least once, but 57% Of Republicans believe that the pandemic is over, while only 4% of Democrats believe that the pandemic is over.

An American friend who lives in London just returned from a trip to two coasts in the United States, and was surprised to find that handshakes and even hugs are common.

He said: “There is a suppressed desire to get things back to where they were before.” If you are one of the fully vaccinated people, that’s great, but if you are among the many unvaccinated people under the age of 40 in the UK One member, then it won’t work.

My friend said that it is also obvious that older male bosses “very like to shake hands”, especially in industries such as the energy industry.

I’m still not sure what role gender might play here.

For every female colleague who said she would be happy to exchange handshake and hugs—not to mention kisses—to bow, fold, or do nothing, I know that at least one man agrees. Among them was a colleague who discovered that he had participated in a recent business meeting. A well-known big figure started the meeting by gorgeously holding the hands of everyone present. My colleague was terrified, and he could hardly stop himself from running to the bathroom to wipe his hands.

I sympathize with him. But recently I also discovered that in the rare cases when I met a new person, a certain muscle memory made me stretch out my hand for a handshake, and then I panicked an apology, which embarrassed everyone.

Unfortunately, history shows that the pandemic will not kill handshake or any other touch-based greetings.

The evolutionary biologist Ella Al-Shamahi wrote in her recent book, shake hands: An exciting history, During past outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and influenza, this greeting has survived many attempts to ban it.

Since chimpanzees and untouched human tribes have similar gestures, she believes that we may be genetically susceptible to being shaken, perhaps to transmit chemical signals related to smells to each other.

Researchers have found that people are more likely to smell their hands after shaking hands, rather than greet them without contact. “We primates are eager to touch,” she said. “And elbows are really poor people’s handshake.”

pilita.clark@ft.com

Twitter: @pilitaclark



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