No handshakes or high fives please

15 March 2020

Vusi Nzapheza
  • Straight & Two Beers

    Covid-19 turns etiquette on its head


    I have, with immediate ef­fect, suspended the practice of shaking hands and giv­ing high fives.

    For one thing, shaking hands when we greet is not even African.

    My rudimentary research shows it dates back to the 5th century BC in Greece as a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon.

    These days it has become so ubiquitous that you may never have thought about why peo­ple shake hands.

    In the corporate sector and urban environments, it is seen as a sign of professionalism to press palms.

    However, in light of the dreaded coronavirus descend­ing on our shores, it has be­come deadly to shake hands. Health experts have always urged people to wash their hands constantly to avoid in­fection of any kind and the coronavirus outbreak has brought their advice into sharp focus.

    The disease continues to down multitudes and one of the stop-gap measures to avoid infection is to wash our hands with soap and avoid shaking hands. Others might see you as an arrogant prick if you de­cline their outstretched hand, but these are tough times and we cannot risk our health for the sake of being polite. I am in favour of the East Asian custom of bowing when we greet instead of exchanging sweat and virus.

    In countries such as Thai­land and Cambodia, they combine bowing with shak­ing hands but it is not so com­mon in India and Nepal except for urban office workers. Oth­er than that, the namaskar it­self is a bit formal in India and Nepal.

    I was shaken out of my slumber recently when some­one refused to shake my hand and told me he’d heard on the radio that doing so could be fa­tal. We chuckled about it after­wards although I concurred with him that he was correct to take precautions.

    Long before the coronavirus made its debut, the late sing­ing sensation Michael Jack­son was the butt of jokes be­cause he had the penchant to wear a glove and a mask to avoid any human contact that could compromise his health.

    The joke is now on us as the reality of a new global pan­demic wreaks havoc.

    As panic grips the world, you should actually run for dear life and see a doctor when someone sneezes. It is no longer polite to say bless you when a sneeze involun­tarily breaks out in your envi­rons since it could spell some­thing more sinister.

    The time to make wearing a mask fashionable has arrived and we should all invest in masks to contain the spread of the virus.

    Of course, wearing a mask and avoiding the handshake are only two of the measures we can take but they are the most effective in the interim while a cure is being sought.

    Shaking hands should actu­ally have long been outlawed. The most finicky people will tell you that it is always risky to shake hands with a stranger since you do not know where their hands have been.

    For instance, you could be shaking hands with some­one who minutes ago had just scratched their bum or mas­turbated and forgot to wash their hands.

    Others still have a nasty habit of digging their nos­es and hygiene is the least of their concerns.

    So, when we cross paths the next time, my hands will be safely tucked in my pockets and my mask firmly on my nose. It’s better to be safe than sorry.


Latest News


Company News

   Loading latest Press Releases...