I had an interesting conversation with a young Japanese guy recently. He said he had lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a while. He had enjoyed his stay there and loved the Ethiopian people but one thing he hated was their “limp” handshake. According to him, one can tell a lot about someone else’s character by their handshake. A limp handshake shows as weak person while one with a firm handshake shows an equally strong person.
I have a different take on this. To me, a handshake does not necessarily say anything about someone’s character per se. I had an interesting experience with a new white colleague, Larry, from the US. We shook hands as the introductions were made and I was surprised at his handshake. Larry shook my hand briefly but firmly and let it go. My conclusion? He did not want to shake my hand because I am black. I could not understand the reason for not giving me a ‘proper’ handshake.
Larry’s handshake made me start paying attention at how people shake hands. I noticed that westerners’ handshakes were firm and brief. On the other hand, a Zambian handshake very different. We shake hands and don’t liberate the other the other person’s hand quickly. The happier we are to see you, the longer the handshake.
Now , if I am greeting a western person, I make a deliberate effort to make my handshakes firm and brief. My handshakes with Zambians still go on forever 🙂