Handshakes have been an important part of human civilization for many centuries, the first thing we do as human beings, when we meet another human being is to offer a hand as a sign of friendship and to show we mean no harm to the other person.
As we know, it is not always appropriate to hug or kiss someone, especially if you have never met this person before, so the handshake is without question the perfect introduction to another. Sadly today, the younger generation don’t seem so keen on handshakes as they have become second to a thing called ‘fist bumping’ or ‘hi-fiveing’, which is shocking considering they are the future of the human race, so could this mean an end to handshakes?
We have been shaking hands for over 2500 years. The first recorded image is of two soldiers in ancient Greece shaking hands taken in the fifth century BC. Handshakes are seen as a sign of friendship, and you mean no harm to one another by demonstrating that you held no weapon. Today, handshakes are offered upon meeting or leaving someone, offering congratulations or showing gratitude to another. It is also done as a sign of goodwill in sports and competitions, and it shows trust, respect and confidence to one another.
The etiquette of a handshake normally dictates that you shake with the right hand, but this is not always possible, especially if you are disabled or similar, and people should bear this in mind, in order to avoid any embarrassment. You should extend your hand and grasp the other person’s hand, but not too hard that you are trying to wrestle them or crush their hand, and at the same time not too limp that you can’t be bothered to shake the other persons hand, as this can be equally off putting to the other person. You need to find a middle ground. You then do two to three pumps, up and down and return your hand to your side. The pumps are gentle and not harsh but a gentle up and down action. Remember to keep some distance between you and the person your are shaking hands with, so you are not in their personal space, but at the same time your not stretching to reach each other.
While carrying out this ritual, make sure that your hands are clean and dry and not sweaty or have anything unpleasant on them!
If you are a gentleman, you will remove your gloves, however ladies may keep the gloves on as etiquette dictates. You then repeat this when you leave the other person’s company, for example at the end of meeting, the meal, or the celebration for which you are all together.
There is an argument that handshakes spread germs, while fist bumping lowers the risk. I do not disagree that it may pass on germs, but then we need to use common sense and wash our hands if we feel we have shaken hands with someone who may be unhygienic or give you cause for concern. I always recommend your hands are clean before you shake hands with another to avoid any thoughts on personal hygiene.
Please remember when it comes to royal etiquette, you never shake the hand of a Royal unless they extend their hand first.
You would bow or curtsey, in the first instance, at which point if the Royal wishes, they will extend their hand as a sign for you to shake their hand. This applies to both male and female Royals.
Recently, I ran as poll on Twitter, asking people if they thought handshakes are still relevant in the 21st-century, the results were:
Yes - 89%
No - 11%
Thankfully this showed me that, like myself, the majority still felt that handshakes were an important ritual, which will hopefully continue for anther 2500 years. A huge thank you to everybody who took part in the poll as all of your views count!