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Midmonth RAP: 5/19/21 ~ Hand-shakes, right & left

Greetings and Happy Midweek!

And it’s just after mid-month, so it’s time for another of our RAP sessions (Review and Process). In our Global SKILLs training, we emphasize how ‘Review and Process’ are key components of strategic planning and implementation. Each mid-month RAP session revisits a cross-cultural theme or topic from a previous Connect, going more deeply into what we’ve begun to explore.

In a previous Connect (see 9/9/20 post here), we looked briefly at ways people greet each other around the world. This week, I thought we’d revisit this topic in view of changes we are all experiencing. Little could any of us have imagined how very different our world and ways of doing things would be today from just months ago. The pandemic has vastly altered our lives, personal and communal - including the fact that every single one of us carefully considers before entering another individual’s personal space in any way, especially where physical touch is involved.

For example, even in cultures where handshakes go beyond standard practice to revered custom, some say these are definitely endangered and possibly on their way to extinction! As standard practice every child at a very early age in West Africa is taught to extend their right hand in greeting anyone, anywhere, every time. An interesting variation on this in some regions is the left hand being extended when someone is leaving for a period of time, to indicate imminent departure but anticipated return. In the past year, handshaking of any kind has been strongly discouraged, in the media and in rural areas where covid warning signage for pre-literate populations include a handshake image barred by a thick red line!

What might ultimately revise or replace this expected and valued initial connection between two people when their usual custom is now not a welcome but a threat? We shall see, as history unfolds - there are certainly options. Eye contact is ‘safer’ as would be a bow, already the custom elsewhere. Stay tuned...we’ll definitely revisit this in coming months!

What about you - how have you experienced recent cross-cultural change in your personal space and as you live in community? Share this with a friend or with us here.

And notice around you as everyone grapples with so much change…

Until next week! Betsy


Global SKILLs LINKs

~ Extending my own West African handshake knowledge beyond Senegal, here’s an interesting variation: https://www.easytrackghana.com/cultural-overview-ghana-cultural-etiquette.php

~ A discussion about handshaking and Diaspora published just prior to covid - I’m wondering how this take on the topic has already changed: https://www.aaihs.org/diasporic-salutations-and-the-west-african-origins-of-the-dap/

~ And some ‘safer’ options to handshaking are already in evidence around the world:

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/54063/what-proper-handshake-etiquette-around-world



2021 ~ Celebrating 40 years of working in

intercultural communications and global community building

Connecting, Collaborating, Cultivating Community


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