Hand shaking
Image for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Pixabay

A simple handshake can get you told off these days. The coronavirus pandemic is upon us and the greeting that we once used to receive people every day has become an absolute taboo. But where does the gesture come from?

Archaeological ruins show handshaking practices being used as long ago as in ancient Greek times, as early as the 5th Century BC.

While some form of the handshake has existed for thousands of years, to pinpoint the exact origin of the way we use it today is difficult.

According to history.com, one popular theory is that by extending one’s empty right hand, strangers could show that they were not holding weapons and had no ill intent towards the person they were greeting.

The ‘shaking’ motion that we use today, some suggest, was supposed to signal that no knives or weapons were hidden in the sleeves.

Another explanation of the gesture is that it was simply a symbol of good faith when making an oath or promise. When people clasped hands, they showed that their word was a sacred bond.

The Iliad and the Odyssey contain descriptions of the gesture. In ancient Rome, the handshake was seen as a sign of fidelity and friendship, with the practice even appearing on ancient Roman coins, history.com stated.

Today, the ritual is used in business meetings, between politicians, family and friends. However, recent developments about the coronavirus outbreak has made it a complete no-no. The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked people to use alternative greetings.

Alternative greetings

Through time, humans have adopted many other greetings such as kisses on the cheeks like in some European and Arab cultures and hugs. However, at a time when the world is battling a deadly contagious virus, people are choosing greetings that don’t require any touching.

Try these alternative greetings and practice social distancing at its best.

The Namaste that is used in mainly India and other Asian countries like Thailand is a great alternative.

Asian cultures have also given us the bow. The act of lowering one's head or the upper part of the torso, commonly used as a sign of salutation, reverence, apology or gratitude in social or religious situations.

Some people, like WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, are also placing their hand on their heart as a form of greeting.

A simple wave when meeting someone is also an effective way of greeting them while avoiding physical contact.

And if you are a Star Trek fan, now is the time to do your best impression of Spock and use the Vulcan salute.