Bye-bye handshakes: how coronavirus is changing global habits
March 2, 2020 11:31 PM
Say no to a handshake, refuse kisses on the cheeks and definitely avoid hugging. Instead, a direct gaze or maybe a gesture with the hands.
All around the world people are changing their daily habits at work, at home and in worship to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus and prevent it from spreading any further.
AFP takes a look at how habits are changing around the world due to the coronavirus, which has killed 3,060 worldwide.
In Beijing, the capital of the country where the outbreak began, red hoardings tell people not to shake hands but to join their own hands together in a sign of greeting. Loudspeakers tell people to make the traditional gong shou gesture -- a fist in the opposite palm -- to say hello.
Newspapers have been filled with advice over how to replace handshaking -- a daily formality for the French at work and kissing on the cheek, a regular greeting habit in France even between people who have only just met. Lifestyle expert Philippe Lichtfus, who has been widely cited in the media, insists that handshakes are a relatively recent development in human history that began in the Middle Ages. He says simply looking into a person's eyes can suffice as a greeting.
The Brazilian health ministry has recommended that citizens not share the metal straws traditionally used to consume the caffeine-rich South American drink mate, also known as chimarrao. And a kiss -- even if it is not on the mouth -- is meanwhile totally advised against.
In a sign of the times, Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer rebuffed Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to shake hands with him on Monday, smiling and keeping both his hands to himself. They both laughed and Merkel threw her hand up in the air before taking a seat.
The outbreak could also hit one of Spain's most cherished traditions -- the kissing of sculptures of the Virgin Mary in the week leading up to Easter. With just a month to go before the week starts, the ritual could be banned. "It is one of the measures that is on the table," said national health official Fernando Simon. During the holy week, the faithful queue up to kiss the hands or feet of sculptures of Mary and the saints, seeking their protection.
Romania's Martisor festival marks the beginning of spring when talismanic strings and flowers are handed out, often from men to women. But the government has passed on a message to people urging them to hand over the flowers and talismans without the accompanying kiss. "Let's give the flowers but not the kiss," said Nelu Tataru, state secretary at the health ministry.
In Poland, one of Europe's most Catholic countries, the faithful are allowed to take "spiritual communion" instead of consuming the communal bread -- or the host can be taken in the hands rather than the mouth. The faithful are also asked not to dip their hands in the holy water when going in and out of the church and instead make the sign of the cross.
Is the footshake the new handshake? In Iran, where 66 have been killed by the coronavirus, a video has gone viral showing three friends meeting, hands in their pockets and two of whom are wearing masks, tapping their feet against each other as a greeting. A similar video in Lebanon shows singer Ragheb Alama and comedian Michel Abou Sleiman tapping their feet against each other while making kissing noises with their mouths.
The United Arab Emirates, as well as Qatar, are advising citizens to stop the traditional "nose to nose" greeting. The UAE also said that people shouldn't shake hands anymore or kiss. Greet each other "by waving only", it said.