Friday, November 05, 2004

Should we be turning Japenese.

Anita Sharp over at Worthwhile posted about shaking hands and the flu season:

With flu season approaching, a growing number of people, myself included, are getting kind of Howard Hughes-like when it comes to shaking hands.

One health writer suggests nodding at people you are introduced to and not offering your hand. I tried that once, but the person I was greeting failed to take the hint. Another writer suggests carrying hand-wipes with you and cleaning your hands after each shake; somehow, that seems to negate the friendly gesture.

Our culture is based on shaking hands.  I certainly start to inform an impression of someone based on how they shake my hand; a limp shake with a sweaty palm does not impress me at all.  The Japanese, on the other hand, greet each other with a bow and, in my experience, are not necessarily comfortable with shaking hands.  Certainly it would seem that a bow is a much greater deterrent to the spread of the flu, but there would need to be a cultural revolution for people in the United States to feel comfortable bowing rather than having flesh-to-flesh contact.

The biggest thing that health providers tell you to prevent yourself from getting the flu is washing you hands.  Unfortunately, as Anita pointed out, using a sterile cloth after shaking someone's hand could be very offensive to the that someone. 

Here are my suggestions to aid in preventing yourself from getting the flu:

  • Wash your hands when you can.
  • Buy a cleaning cloth for your computer keyboard and use it at least twice a week.  Definitely use the cloth if you have let someone else use your computer (do it after they've left and can't see you use it).
  • If you are at a social function where there is food being served, be conscious about shaking hands.  Eat food with your left hand and hold your plate in your right.
  • Keep your hands full at social gatherings if you can get away with it.  If you have a plate of food in one hand and a drink in another, you are most probably in a situation where someone might accept a nod in place of a handshake, especially if there is nowhere close to put down your drink or plate.
  • Do not touch your eyes or face area with your hands if you have not yet had a chance to wash your hands after shaking hands.  This is the hardest to remember and even if you do and are focused on not scratching your eye, you will always have an itch.

Best of luck and feel free to share more of your best practices with me by e-mail or comment; I'll publish everything I receive.

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