What is Proper Handshake Etiquette Around the World?

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First impressions mean everything, and most of the time, they start with a handshake. Here’s what you need to know to make the locals happy on your next business trip.

1. Brazil

Expect a firm handshake that lasts longer than you’re used to. Mix in strong eye contact, and greet women with a kiss on each cheek. Repeat when you leave.

2. China

Age matters here, so greet the oldest people first. Grip lightly and bow slightly. Avoid direct eye contact and hold onto the person’s hand a moment or two after the handshake has finished.

3. Philippines

Most other Asiatic countries follow China’s lead. The Philippines is an exception. Look them right in the eye and don’t bow. A weak grip, though, is a must.

4. Australia

If you’re a woman and you’re shaking a man’s hand, offer your hand first. Typically, women don't shake hands with other women. Shake firm and fast. And no matter what your political ambitions are, never ever use both hands.

5. France

It doesn’t matter if you’re meeting them for the first or 101st time. Shake their hand quickly and lightly. If you’re close, a kiss on both cheeks is a-okay.

6. Russia

Unless it’s a business situation, don’t shake the hand of the opposite sex. Traditional circles consider it impolite, since a man should kiss a woman’s hand. If you’re going to shake, though, bulk up and make it a bonecrusher.

7. Turkey

Keep your deathgrip packed in your suitcase! Firm shakes are rude. Don’t be surprised if the person holds the handshake so long that they start holding your hand. It’s a gesture of friendship.

8. South Korea

The most senior person should start the handshake, and the grip should be soft. Don’t bury your free hand in your pocket, but feel free to clench their right arm with your left hand.

9. Morocco

As long as they’re the same gender, it’s okay to shake their hand. But go gentle. Only shake a woman’s hand if she offers it.

10. United Arab Emirates

Start by shaking the hand of the oldest, or most senior, person there. Greet them by their title, whatever it may be, and expect the handshake to linger. Let them determine when it’s time to let go.

11. Kenya

When greeting elders or high-status people, grasp the right wrist with the left hand. Say “Jambo” (How are you?). Afterward, ask them about business or their family. It’s rude not to.

12. Mexico

Expect a long lasting handshake. If you’re a man, a hug may be in order, too. Women may kiss each other on the cheeks.

13. Norway

It doesn’t matter who is there, how many people there are, or how old they may be—shake hands with everyone. Call each person by his or her first and last name. Never say, “How are you?” To Norwegians, it’s meaningless conversational fluff.

14. Thailand

Don’t shake hands! The person will offer what’s called a “wai,” placing their palms together at chest level and bowing. Return the gesture. If you’re a man, greet then with “Sawadee-krap.” If you’re a woman, say “Sawadee-kah” (both mean “Hello). Shake hands only if a wai is not offered.

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December 5, 2013 - 10:30am
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