The handshake: a universal gesture of peaceful greeting and fraternity, right? Not entirely. In fact, a hand shake can help make or break a relationship from day one. Everything, from how tight you grip to where you stand when being photographed shaking hands, can carry its own subtext, and some cultures place more value – and potential to be offended – on a precise observation of local customs than do others.
In some countries, for example, there is a strict order of affairs to follow – whether it means greeting a group of people by turn, or waiting to be prompted before offering your hand. Japan is famous for its inhabitants’ ritualistic sense of etiquette, and bowing is a more common form of greeting with its own complex code – so be sure to wait for a hand to be offered before you offer your own, and then shake gently and without eye contact. As with the British, everyone will remain a lot happier if you keep body contact to a minimum.
Just to the west, in South Korea, the eldest person in the group should be greeted first, and supporting your forearm with your other hand is deemed a gesture of respect. Likewise, in China, proceed in sequence of age, and offer a light nod.
In South Africa, you should keep shaking until the other person releases – let’s just hope they’re not thinking the same thing. There is a range of shaking types to explore in that region, and the variety in Zambia to the north is so varied as to require its own extensive guide.
For a broader look at how to shake hands around the world, be sure to check out this new infographic from online travel service provider Expedia Canada, which explores the handshake etiquette of nineteen countries. Especially in business, you’ll want to make the right first impression when being acquainted with interesting new people from different cultures.