Types of handshakes

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 πŸ™‚

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. zambianlady
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 18:43:43

    Do you mean we only had one western person? No, there were many westerners and I interacted with many from various continents and continents but Larry’s brief handshake is the one I noticed first.

    Reply

  2. wholeproduction
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 17:00:11

    lol I don’t think your US friend was racist because of that but you are right. People don’t usually shake hands for long around here. I do make handshake last long but it really depends on the person. πŸ™‚

    Reply

  3. jesusknowsmyname
    Nov 24, 2014 @ 15:43:19

    You have such an interesting blog here. I have been going through many of your posts and will return to leave more comments. I do have some thoughts to share on handshakes–western handshakes to be specific. Larry gave you a very proper and I think, sensitive handshake. By ‘sensitive’ I mean that he very kindly took into consideration that you are a woman. I imagine your skin color had nothing to do with it. Yes, it is viewed in the United States that a firm handshake means that someone is ‘in control’ and has ‘power’–this is especially true among men. I don’t know about your culture, but here in the US, one man would never want to appear ‘weak’ to another man with a weak handshake. Now, on another note, if a man meets and shakes a woman’s hand (and the proper manners here are that a woman should offer her hand first–or not at all–but in business situations, she should), he should be firm, but gentle. Generally, women’s hands are not as strong as a man’s, therefore, a man should not ‘crush’ a woman’s hand. I’ve had men shake my hand and squeeze it so hard that it hurt for a week– that made me angry! Now I generally try to avoid handshakes, as I have Arthritis in my hands and it hurts. I’ve also had an experience shaking a man’s hand and it was such a limp, weak handshake– I didn’t like that either. To me, that made me think that the man was so benign, with a weak character–I found it sort of repulsive. So, you and I could agree that a particular style of handshake could mean something, or nothing! We would have to get to know the person before we could say what their character was like. I was once introduced to a man (a boss) and he took my hand, shook it once, and then practically ‘threw’ my hand down. The ‘message’ I received from that was that he didn’t care about me enough to take the few seconds give me a gentle yet friendly handshake. I have also had handshakes from women who practically wouldn’t let go of my hand–it became awkward. Now, if a man held onto a woman’s hand for more than a few seconds, it would feel and look very awkward and I think, would have more of a sexual connotation –whether that was desired or not!

    Reply

    • zambianlady
      Nov 24, 2014 @ 18:34:59

      Thanks for clarifying that men generally shake hands gently with women. Now I understand better as I was ready to claim (as I did in my mind only) that Larry was a racist.

      Reply

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