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The Global Etiquette of Shaking Hands

Published on 22 June 2018|
2 min read

“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” – Indira Gandhi

By Louise M, Carrybeans

But you could probably give a fist bump! However, that wouldn’t be a great impression on others and there is that possibility for an awkward moment.

There’s an amazing diversity of greeting customs around the world but the most common physical way to greet people is now the handshake. It’s not only a form of greeting but it also symbolizes congratulation, agreement, thank you or farewell.

21 June is World Handshake Day so we’re going to learn the global etiquette of shaking hands.


How to shake hands in different countries


A handshake is the common greeting between strangers. Shaking with a firm hand and eye contact reflects confidence. Shake hands with everyone present upon meeting and before leaving. Allow women to offer their hands first. Women generally do not shake hands with other women as they generally tend to be more tactile when greeting each other.


Handshakes should be gentle and last only for a few seconds. Age and rank matter so greet the eldest and most senior first. It is acceptable to bow slightly (a nod) when greeting someone. As a sign of respect, Chinese sometimes lower their eyes slightly when they meet others. If someone, no matter whether he is superior or not, offers his hand before you, it is courteous to give an unreserved response.

Hong Kong

Shake hands with everyone – men, women and children – upon meeting and leaving. Note that Hong Kong Chinese handshakes may be less firm. People of a higher rank are introduced before those of lower rank. An older person comes before a younger person and a woman before a man.


Shake hands and give a slight nod when meeting for the first time. After the first meeting, a handshake is not necessary; a slight bow or nod of the head is sufficient. Shake an Indonesian woman’s hand only if she initiates the greeting. If a woman puts her hands in front of her chest in a prayer position it means she would prefer not to shake hands. In this case, the man should return the gesture.


Credit: Quora

A handshake is appropriate upon meeting. The Japanese handshake is limp and with little or no eye contact. Some Japanese bow and shake hands. The bow is a highly regarded greeting to show respect and is appreciated by the Japanese. A slight bow to show courtesy is acceptable.



Handshakes should be friendly and informal, but not limp. A strong handshake isn’t necessary to assert yourself. Both men and women often greet one another by shaking hands. Look them right in the eye and don’t bow. When a man meets a woman he usually waits for the woman to offer her hand first.

South Korea

The bow is the traditional Korean greeting, although it is often accompanied by a handshake among men. The most senior person should start the handshake, and the grip should be soft. To show respect when shaking hands, support your right forearm with your left hand. Korean women usually nod slightly and will not shake hands with Western men. Western women may offer their hand to a Korean man. Bow when departing. Younger people wave (move their arm from side to side).


Credit: kohsamuisunset

The person will offer what’s called a “wai,” placing their palms together at chest level and bowing. Return the gesture. Foreigners are not expected to initiate the wai gesture, but it is an insult not to return the wai. If a wai is not offered to you, shake hands with men and smile and nod to women.  Offer a wai only to a person of equal or greater status. Subordinates should offer a wai first.

United Kingdom

A handshake is the most common form of greeting among the English and British people and is customary when you are introduced to somebody new. People generally greet with handshakes and shake hands with everyone present. A firm handshake is good but a lighter handshake is appreciated. Try to avoid prolonged eye contact. Women should extend their hand to men first.

United States

Handshakes are usually brief. Use a firm grip as lighter handshakes are considered distasteful. Eye contact is important when shaking someone’s hand.

So in honour of World Handshake Day, surprise someone with a handshake and tell them what today is. You might just make their day!

Shake hands with a football buddy and share these World Cup fun facts!

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