Leg Shake, Elbow Bump, or Namaste: Coronavirus Greeting Etiquette

Instead of the handshake, people are turning to creative greetings in the time of coronavirus.

Updated
Health News
3 min read

Video Producer: Debayan Dutta

Video Editor: Varun Sharma

German Chancellor Angela Merkel extended her hand for a handshake to a man, who refused to shake it. Merkel laughed and waved her hand cheerily at his refusal. In which situation can this even happen? Only one: when the world is in the throes of the coronavirus. Ways of greeting have changed after people were advised to reduce physical contact. While handshakes are universally acceptable and recognizable forms of greeting, they are also really effective at transferring germs, especially ones that are as contagious as coronavirus. A study published by the University of Colorado suggests that a typical hand has typically 150 different species of bacteria living on it.

A video making the rounds in Chinese social media shows two men doing the Wuhan shake: greeting each other by bumping their feet together.

At this point in time, when the novel Coronavirus has hit almost 86 countries, advisories are issued to wash hands thoroughly multiple times a day, we might do well to consider alternative forms of greeting. The French government has advised its citizens to give up the traditional kiss when meeting people, as reported by France 24. "I have formally advised against the practice of handshaking, the reduction of social contact in a physical manner, and that would include the practice of 'la bise',” French Health Minister Olivier Véran told a press conference on Saturday.

“Companies that organize big events, their clients are all canceling. Businesses are taking precautions, asking their employees to wash their hands, reduce contact and work from home if necessary. But yeah people are kissing each other less, which is big for France!
Mallika Singhal, a resident in Paris
In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron, left, puts his arm around the shoulder of Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and gives him a kiss on both cheeks during a joint press conference on the occasion of a French-Italian summit in Naples, southern Italy.
In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron, left, puts his arm around the shoulder of Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and gives him a kiss on both cheeks during a joint press conference on the occasion of a French-Italian summit in Naples, southern Italy.
(Photo: AP)

“My mother told me that when she went to Church, the priest suggested not to shake hands when they say ‘may peace be with you’, and they didn’t bring the communion to your mouth, but only to the hands, because it’s safer.”

So how are people greeting each other in the time of Coronavirus?

Instead of the handshake, the US Surgeon General introduced the elbow bump at a news conference in Connecticut, USA Today reports. “We’re encouraging communities to think about the steps they can take to limit spread within communities to mitigate the effects of the virus. We should probably rethink the handshake for a while,” he said.

U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, right, bumps elbows with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont as they meet for a visit at the Connecticut State Public Health Laboratory, Monday, March 2, 2020, in Rocky Hill, Conn.
U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, right, bumps elbows with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont as they meet for a visit at the Connecticut State Public Health Laboratory, Monday, March 2, 2020, in Rocky Hill, Conn.
(Photo: AP)

The Daily Mail reports that Thai pupils at Brighton College are teaching junior pupils how to do the Thai Wai, which is by folding their hands as if in prayer, because if they cannot do the handshake, they still want to retain warmth and greet each other in some way.

The Guardian also reported that the greeting of the Maori tribe in New Zealand, which involves rubbing noses together, has been banned as more and more cases of coronavirus emerge. This greeting is called Hongi, and a ban on it will be placed.

This has given India the chance to remind people that the good old Namaste is as good a greeting as any. The Israeli Prime Minister too on Wednesday, March 1, encouraged his countrymen to adopt 'Namaste' — the Indian way of greeting — instead of the normal handshake as one of the measures to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

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