Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Shaking Hands

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I don't like shaking hands. Hands are tools and tools get dirty and exchanging tools is the same as exchanging germs. I am all too aware of where I put my tools, the places I scratch, the things I touch. For this reason I spare you the exchange of microbial spores and other germs -- please spare me from your filth too.

I really don't know why the ritual of shaking hands is still such a common practise. Personally, I'd rather hug somebody than shake hands with them. During a hug, there are layers of cloth separating actual skin-to-skin contact. Truthfully, it is not really the contact with another person's body that bothers me. It is touching someone else's hands. As I said, hands are dirty. It is our major manipulative tool. Even a cheek to cheek hug or a kiss on the cheek is more hygienic than a hand shake.

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Sometimes I clench my teeth and just shake hands. Overly eager and super friendly people thrust out their hands at you for a good ol' shake, so in order not to offend, I oblige. Not accepting the offered hand could signal an insult. But I cringe all the way to the washing room and cannot wash my hands soon enough.

In Korea there are many an opportunity to share hand germs. In subway stations, escalators, buses and the like, are hand-bars to hold on to. I refrain from touching these at all cost. (My balance has improved tremendously!) Elevator buttons I often press with my wrist or the back of my knuckles. Doorhandles I open from behind my jacket, or with my knees. I push the handle to flush public toilets with my feet or with toilet paper wrapped around my hand.

Whenever I enter my home, practically the first thing I do is wash my hands.

A few months ago I gave a public speech on "Two 'Profitable' Things for a Christian from Romantic Poetry." For most the public speaking would be their worst fear. For me it was the idea of shaking hands with all the people afterwards. Even now I cringe at the thought.

One thing I appreciate about Korea is the bow. Bowing is not always a substitute for handshaking, but one can often get away with a bow instead of shaking hands. When I was in China recently, I was distraught that they don't bow.

To my friends, rather give me a personal hug, than shaking my hand. Or if the hug is too intimate for you, how about the fist-bump. With the fist-bump there is little exchange of germs and it looks cool to boot. Or let's bow. A friendly broad smile would equally suffice.

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