Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Replacing the Handshake

New Etiquette for the New World

A pandemic caused us to behave differently while wondering which or what of the old ways we may keep. One of the first things to go was the handshake.

You know, that thing the ancient Greeks developed to show an approaching stranger you are not armed and can be trusted. That thing young people had to practice so they can do well on job interviews. Firm, but not too firm. Spirited, without being too energetic as to cause a concussion. There you go, just right.

Apparently, it isn’t anymore. Neither is the elbow bump, that touching of the very place we’re instructed to cough into. The Far East’s light head-bow with hand on one’s heart (I always found this elegant and touching) is one fine new way.

There’s also new etiquette for virtual gatherings, a la Zoom and such. There’s new etiquette for how to walk on the street. Hence, there are new requirements for storytelling. Movies shot before look downright historic.

It’s hard to know how much will stick with humanity for the longer run. But considering how long we’ve kept the handshake, (well after the knife-in-hand lost its prevalence) it’s likely we’ll have a few new etiquette rules added to our collective vocabulary.

A friend made the observation that in her childhood she used to ask her mother why grandma saved every piece of string.
“Grandma lived through the Great Depression,” her mom explained.
Someday, our grandkids will ask why Grandma wipes grocery bags with bleach, and our kids would explain that we lived through the Great Pandemic.

Storytellers are watching, and everyone is learning.


Vijaya said...

I have many friends from the East and since the first SARS (in 2003?) there's a culture of wearing masks. I love the Indian Namaste the best--it's courteous and respectful.

I wonder how young adults are navigating romance--will they kiss? Ah, love in the time of covid :) The cholera one by Gabriel Garcia Marquez remains a favorite.

By the way, many dioceses stopped the "kiss of peace" and I for one am very happy to keep the focus on our Lord. There's no holding hands during the Pater Noster either :)

ikmar said...

Just talking etiquette, the news today said that periods in texts are considered aggressive by younger people. And it's better to send multiple texts than a paragraph.

I am getting old.

Evelyn said...

Ah me. So many changes. What I will miss the most are hugs, if they are frowned upon ongoing. Hugs say things much better than words if someone is sad or hurting, or if you're thrilled to see someone, or if....

Jenni said...

I hope these things aren't gone forever. At least they are still done with my family and close friends. (Gasp!) I haven't accepted many things about this "new normal."

Before the Berlin wall fell, I worked with someone who refused to say "Eastern Germany" until it was just Germany again. I feel the same way about these new social rules. But then again, I wouldn't be against the bow and curtsy (a la the Regency era) as a way of acknowledging a new acquaintance.

Barbara Etlin said...

When our friend and Computer Guru came over in June to fix our computers, I avoided the hug that would usually accompany his arrival by doing Spock's Vulcan salute and saying "Live long and prosper." He laughed and enjoyed it.

Mirka, you're not a Star Trek fan, so you may not know that Leonard Nimoy invented the Vulcan salute as a different way for Vulcans to greet people. It was borrowed from Jewish tradition's blessing by the Kohanim.

Mirka Breen said...

I know the gesture, Barbara. I like the hand-to-heart much more. It has deeper roots and longer legs :)

MirkaK said...

To some people around the world, grabbing one’s hand to shake or pulling someone into a hug could seem aggressive, overly intimate, unwelcome., So namaste, nods, hand on the heart are more peaceful, acceptable gestures. But then consider in some cultures rubbing noses trumps kissing lips, neither definitely not safe!

Mirka Breen said...

Well, MirkaK, rubbing noses was never okay in the west and for once I am glad ;)