Humans have been greeting each others with handshakes for thousands of years. Are we witnessing the end to pressing the flesh, and giving some skin? "I don't think we should shake hands ever again," declared Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the key members of the US coronavirus task force, in a Wall Street Journal podcast.

So is we must shelve the shake, what should we do when we greet a friend, a colleague or family member? From reviving old traditions to inventing new ways of greetings, alternatives to handshakes are showing up around the world:

  • In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has encouraged citizens not to use handshakes, hugs or hongi (a traditional noses-pressed Maori greeting) but to perform instead the "east coast wave", even demonstrating it during a press conference, reports The New Zealand Herald. Also known as the "Kahungunu wave" as it is common in Ngāti Kahungunu Maori iwi (tribe), it consists of raising the eyebrows while looking at someone in the eyes, with a subtle upward movement of the head.

How to do the "Kahungunu wave" — Photo: Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc

  • In China, a traditional gesture called "zuoyi", bowing with hands folded in front, has made a public comeback in the eastern city of Quzhou. Officials were asked to use this gesture during local plenary sessions, as well as students in 117 schools, The Global Times reports. This formal custom dates back from China's imperial era thousands of years ago. The country also popularized the "Wuhan shake," or how to say hello with your feet, after an online video went viral.

  • In many countries, a handshake is also a means to seal a business deal. That is how traders traditionally operate in Garissa County, Kenya, when they sell animals in livestock markets. But Kenyan health officials are now giving them a safer option that doesn't require physical contact: a "stick-shake". The Ministry of Health has published a picture of a health worker demonstrating how to use sticks as a substitute for the traditional handshake at a goat market.

No handshake, use shaka instead — Photo: Brian Schatz

  • The elbow bump has been widely used across the world and seems to be favored especially by politicians (who are famous hand shakers...or "flesh pressers" as we say in English) , from state officials in Indonesia to European health ministers. Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even dubbed it the "corona shake".
  • Hawaiians are used to hugs, kisses or "honi", with foreheads touching. But officials like Hawaii US Senator Brian Schatz have been urging citizens to use the "shaka" to help prevent the virus from spreading, reports local news channel KITV. The gesture, which consists in curling the three middle fingers and extending the thumb and pinky finger, is a symbol of friendship and compassion in the Hawaiian culture and was widely popularized by surfers.

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