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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Is the “footshake” the new handshake?

Jack Burton



PHOTO: US President Barack Obama "fistbumps" a young visitor the the White House - Wikipedia

People around the world are changing the way they greet each other due to fears of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.

In Beijing, the capital of the country where the outbreak began, red banners tell people not to shake hands but rather to join their own hands as a sign of greeting. Loudspeakers tell people to make the traditional “gong shou” gesture, a fist in the opposite palm, to say hello.

In France, etiquette expert Philippe Lichtfus has suggested that instead of “la bise,” the traditional French peck on the cheek, simply looking into a person’s eyes can suffice as a greeting. He says handshakes are a relatively recent development that began in the Middle Ages. Newspapers are filled with advice on how to replace kissing on the cheek, and handshaking, a common formality at work.

Brazil’s health ministry is recommending citizens not share metal straws used to consume the caffeine-rich South American drink maté, also called chimarrao. Kissing, even if not on the mouth, is highly discouraged as a greeting.

In a sign of the times, Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Monday declined Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempt to shake hands, smiling and keeping both his hands to himself. They both laughed and Merkel threw her hand up in the air before taking a seat.

The virus could change one of Spain’s most cherished traditions: kissing sculptures of the Virgin Mary in the week leading up to Easter. During the holy week, the faithful queue up to kiss the hands or feet of sculptures of Mary and the saints, seeking their protection. With just a month to go before the week starts, the custom could be banned.

The Martisor festival in Romania marks the beginning of spring, when talismanic strings and flowers are handed out, most often from men to women. But the government is urging people to hand over the flowers and talismans without the accompanying kiss.

“Let’s give the flowers but not the kiss.”

In Catholic Poland, the faithful are now allowed to take “spiritual communion” instead of consuming the communal bread, or it can be taken in the hands rather than the mouth. Worshippers have also been asked not to dip their hands in holy water when entering and leaving the church and instead make the sign of the cross.

In Iran, where the virus has killed at least 77 people,a video has “gone viral” showing three friends meeting, hands in pockets, two of them wearing masks, tapping their feet against each other as a greeting. A similar video in Lebanon shows popular singer Ragheb Alama and comedian Michel Abou Sleiman tapping their feet while making kissing noises.

Some schools in New Zealand have (temporarily) banned the traditional Maori greeting known as the hongi, which involves people pressing their noses together Wellington polytechnic WelTec said that instead the hongi, its welcome ceremony will instead include a waiata, or Maori song.

Is the "footshake" the new handshake? | News by Thaiger

The United Arab Emirates, as well as Qatar, are also advising citizens to stop the traditional “nose to nose” greeting. The UAE says people shouldn’t shake hands or kiss. Greet each other “by waving only,” a statement said.

In Australia, New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard urges Australians to kiss with caution and suggests a pat on the back instead of a handshake.

“It’s a very Australian thing to put your hand out to shake hands, for example. I would be suggesting to the community… it’s time Aussies actually gave each other a pat on the back for the time being — no handshaking.”

“There are other things that can be done — I’m not going to say don’t kiss, but certainly you could be exercising a degree of care and caution with who you choose to kiss.”

NBA stars in the US have been given a series of recommendations including bumping fists with fans rather than high-fiving, and avoiding taking items such as pens, balls and jerseys to autograph, ESPN reports. Some players have already taken steps to limit their exposure. Portland Trail Blazers star C.J. McCollum says he’s no longer signing autographs due to the outbreak.

“Make sure y’all washing y’all hands with soap for 20 or more seconds & covering ya mouths when you cough,” he tweeted.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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