Opinion

Normal Times And The COVID-19 Pandemic: Finding Alternative Ways To Greet Each Other

Public health professionals and Government leaders have overly emphasised the importance of social distancing and breaking the habit of handshakes. This is a shift in human behaviour – first, we find ourselves forced into social distancing, then breaking the handshake tradition.
08 May 2020 17:10
Normal Times And The COVID-19 Pandemic: Finding Alternative Ways To Greet Each Other
Accepting these alternative types of greetings can help against contracting COVID-19.

We live in unusual times! A time where our social lives have been restricted and limited because of the novel coronavirus aka COVID-19 pandemic.

It requires us to isolate with maximum caution to protect ourselves and loved ones.

For many years, we have been too comfortable with ritualistic greetings that have become a norm in our lives: from hugs to high fives to pinky-swears and other forms of gestures!

Yes, We love our handshakes. Some hug, some say hello rubbing their noses together. And some do a combination of – shake hands, hug and a kiss on the cheek. Ask my mum – she knows because she falls in that category – the whole nine yards of saying hello when she meets someone very close to her.

In normal times, the basic handshake, the Fijian dre, the Botswana handshake, the Liberian snap handshake, high five and the fist bump are our signature greeting gestures. Then we have the very popular French “la bise” greeting – the cheek kiss used to greet people.

However, in this time of social distancing, what kinds of greetings should we use? What type of greeting is more infectious that another?

Since COVID-19, I have tried to avoid all the ‘normal basic handshakes’ mentioned earlier, but it is very challenging – and I know a lot of people also feel the same. We have accustomed ourselves to this ritual of throwing hugs at every available opportunity.

So what are my alternatives?

Rewind back to early February, I was very comfortable with a handshake. There was no COVID-19 bacteria scare and a firm hand grip or handshake is a universal sign of mutual respect and strength. Handshakes are also a standard hello!

Today, a firm handshake is a universal sign of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

I am personally comfortable with the non-contact greetings like air hugs, V signs, namaste and the hang loose or shaka sign. From the Hawaiian surf culture hang loose to the almost universally recognised gesture of polite salutation, namaste hand gesture is equally recognisable to many people.

For me, putting my hands together at chest level with palms together and fingers pointing up carries strong positive connotations of prayer, friendship, solidarity and kindness. COVID-19 has made us rethink how we say hello.

It is the right thing to do.

Public health professionals and Government leaders have overly emphasised the importance of social distancing and breaking the habit of handshakes. This is a shift in human behaviour – first, we find ourselves forced into social distancing, then breaking the handshake tradition.

But even if handshakes die out – alternatives already exist. When we returned from our Dubai Christmas trips, we also brought back with us the “al-Hamdu li-llaah” gesture – placing right hand across the chest (with a bowed head or a nod) – a sign of respect expressed in the Emirati or Arab communities.

We are adapting and we must communicate in the most safest way we can.

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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