During recent press conferences, President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that handshakes may be a thing of the past due to the COVID-19 coronavirus contagion. Though he hasn't quite come to grips with that himself, and reaches out his hand in greeting through force of habit, it behooves us to find some alternatives.
The recent “stay-at-home” executive orders cropping up across the US and Canada have certainly limited the amount of face-to-face contact we have with strangers and friends, but we’ll eventually open our doors to the world and engage with one another as we did before this contagion took over. And it’s essential to be prepared for when that time comes. One of the changes we’ll need to make is how to greet someone due to the obsolescence of handshakes.
1. Hand Clap
A round of applause for someone you haven’t seen in a while could be a good alternative to the handshake. When I was in Pemba, Mozambique for two and half months doing humanitarian work early in my college career, clapping hands was a popular way of greeting a friend or someone you hadn’t met before. And who doesn’t like for others to give them a round of applause? It just makes you feel good and appreciated!
This is the mode of greeting in Japan, and if you're not sure how to do it, or even feel a little silly, there are pointers. An old and storied tradition, bowing is of the utmost seriousness.
3. Verbal “Hello”
I really don’t know what happened to this one. Who needs a handshake or any other kind of greeting if you can just say “hello?” It’s not the most interesting, to be sure, but it gets the message across.
4. Tapping Feet
Here's one from Iran, and it's a neat one. If you’re unwilling to shake hands but are still wanting the physical engagement, there’s always foot tapping!
A simple wave will do, too. Though waving is a generic indication of farewell, I could get used to someone waving at me if we were meeting. This is often how people greet in big cities, across subway platforms. Sometimes even animals get into the act.
6. Hand Over Heart
Although it may seem a bit formal for some, placing your hand over your heart when you greet someone would communicate your sincerity in seeing them. The formal term for this method of greeting is “Salam Malaysia.”
7. Spock’s Vulcan Salute
Shamefully, I’ve never watched a single episode of Star Trek, but just about everyone ought to know about Spock’s salute. This is Andrew Yang’s personal favorite, and as the original presidential proponent of universal basic income, a concept North America is diving into temporarily amid this crisis, we may well give his greeting some props.
8. Tip Your Hat or Nod Your Head
Tipping your hat is also a great way to acknowledge someone when you see them. And it’s been around forever. The only issue is that not everyone wears a hat, in which case it would be just fine to give a little head nod instead.
While I typically only give the head nod to friends I know, it may catch on despite it perhaps being a little too informal if meeting someone for the first time.
9. The Jim and Pam High Five
This is my personal favorite! For anyone who knows anything about the t.v. show "The Office," you know about the shenanigans Jim and Pam get up to. One of the ways they congratulate each is a high five in the air, but there’s no reason why this couldn’t be used as a greeting.
I usually only see someone saluting if they are trying to be sarcastic or actually in the armed forces, but this could be the latest trend in a germ-free greeting. The biggest challenge for civilians would be to do it in a way that wouldn’t be completely awkward, and you’re on your own on that one.
11. Squirt of Hand Sanitizer
If all that fails simply share a small pump of hand sanitizer, if you can afford to share the precious resource. Despite it being objectively the least exciting, it is definitely the most sanitary.
While the COVID-19 coronavirus has fundamentally changed the way we operate on a day-to-day basis, it is important we learn to adapt and establish new norms. There’s nothing wrong in getting creative with the way you greet someone—just don’t touch each other!