Monday, August 10, 2009

Don't shake hands - learn to bow like the Chinese!

For years I've hoped we stupid Westerners would finally learn to bow instead of shaking hands (thus exchanging some of our germs with other people). Now I'm glad to note that at least here in Tampere, Finland, city officials seem to have adapted a policy of not shaking hands with customers. Unfortunately, nobody there seems to have thought of replacing that (bad) habit with another one, such as a simple bow. (I mentioned this to the officials I met, but don't expect that to have any effect, as I'm not a consultant hired by the city.) But I hope they'll learn - I hope we'll all learn.

Of course it's possible that it will just take a long time. The officials here, according to a sign I read, have stopped shaking hands for the duration of the "current threat" or something, apparently believing that this is an unusual situation that will soon change as everything returns to normal. I doubt this will happen. Instead, I'm pretty sure that there will be more and more viral threats, especially as long as people keep shaking hands. And cultural things like that are hard to change rapidly. The farming methods in Asia should be changed much more urgently than our custom of shaking hands, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

I can only hope people all over the world start learning new customs and habits, instead of just panicking about the most recent case of flu or other candidate for the next Black Death.


Mark said...

Or just learn to keep your hands clean.

Jouni Vilkka said...

Mark, that's a start, but not quite enough. :) It's impossible to keep one's hands clean enough all the time, and there will always be germs in the hands in any case. There's no reason to spread them so eagerly to other people, when there's such an easy way to avoid it.

Mark said...

True, though in the same regard there will always be germs where germ-covered hands have been, so even if people avoid shaking hands the germs will still spread.

But if we always make sure we wash our hands before handling food, eating, or otherwise doing something which might let germs inside, then it doesn't matter if we shake hands or not.

So given the choice between a major cultural change which isn't necessarily that effective, or more awareness and consistency in habits which should already be well established... Well, I choose the latter.