Handshakes taboo amid coronavirus fears: Winnipeg etiquette expert talks alternatives

With increased concerns about the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, the traditional handshake greeting might be on its way out – at least until the situation is under control.

Winnipeg etiquette expert Jessica LoRusso told 680 CJOB that some people are declining handshakes these days over coronavirus concerns, but there other options available as greetings.

“Culturally, we don’t kiss hands anymore. Two hundred years ago, that used to happen, but things change.

“It could be that we might be bowing like the Japanese.”

“Handshakes are not going to go away, but if we still have a very large concern about viruses, sicknesses, and contacting other things from other people, we’re going to make a change eventually,” she said.

The virus spreads through tiny water droplets expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales, according to the World Health Organization.

Fears of its transmission have led to other approaches – from fist-bumps to ‘footshakes’ and beyond – being employed instead.

The important thing about greeting someone without a handshake, LoRusso said, is that you make them feel respected and valued through your body language.

“The important thing is that you really acknowledge the other person – that you validate them and you greet them the best you can.”

“You don’t have to touch other people, and that’s the real thing that with the virus that we’re having now. When people are stopping people from high-fiving or the kiss on the cheek, that’s a real concern.”

LoRusso said she doesn’t expect handshakes to disappear from public use forever, as they’re an important way for people to understand each other, but the coronavirus crisis might encourage many people to have a backup plan.

In Winnipeg, coronavirus fears are also affecting shops and restaurants in the city’s Chinatown district.

Tina Chen of the Chinese Cultural and Community Centre told 680 CJOB that businesses are being affected – some to the tune of a 30 to 35 per cent drop in business compared to previous years – despite no cases of the virus reported in Manitoba.

“Certainly we’re hearing from the business leaders in the community that they are feeling the effects of coronavirus and people’s fears of just being out in public space,” she said.

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