The Modern Etiquette Guide to Physical Greeting Gestures

Someone’s got to fix this situation. Pronto.

For a while there it seemed like the fist bump was going to take over as the world’s go-to physical greeting gesture. Sleek, efficient and powerful, the fist bump (also known as the ‘terrorist fist jab’) was riding the crest of an incredible wave back in 2008. When Barack gave Michelle that little jab on election night we all experienced the incredible power of the fist bump first hand. And once the swine flu hysteria spread I figured that the hypo-allergenic fist bump would displace handshaking once and for all.

But lately it seems like the fist bump is losing a little steam and now I’m utterly confused as to how to properly greet people. When I see acquaintances I end up doing some kind of weird Kabuki dance, thrusting out fists and palms randomly, never quite knowing what to do. It’s awful.

Let’s review the other options:

1) The Traditional Handshake. Your safest bet is to stick out your right hand and go for the traditional handshake. Everyone has seen it before and most people know how to execute it properly. The downside is that some people have clammy hands and once you shake a clammy hand your own hand feels weird and tainted for the rest of the day. Also, the traditional handshake may be viewed as being excessively formal and some people may feel slighted by not getting a more friendly or casual gesture.

2) The High-5. Outside of sporting events, the high-5 has really fallen on hard times. I suspect that this is because the high-5 is a surprisingly advanced maneuver and there’s nothing more embarrassing than a missed high-5. Look, these are dangerous times we’re living in and people just don’t want to take the risk of mis-firing a high-5 in public. Here’s the secret to a perfect high-5: the initiator needs to offer up the high-5 palm and hold steady. DON’T MOVE THAT HAND! When the initiator moves the hand is when the high-5 breaks down.

3) The bro-hug. A bro-hug is when you clasp half-twisted right hands (fingers on top) and bring the left arm around for a loose hug. The (oxymoronic) key to the bro-hug is that you can only bro-hug someone that you’ve previously bro-hugged with. Bro-hugs have to be pre-arranged or assumed. NEVER SNEAK ATTACK A BRO-HUG! If you’re not expecting it, the bro-hug is awkward and very uncomfortable. The one exception is if you’re at a Dead (excuse me, a Furthur) show – then please feel free to bro-hug away, my patchouli-wearing, dreadlocked, unshowered friend!

4) The full hug. I’ve discussed this in the past. Full hugs are exclusively for people that are related or intoxicated. No exceptions.

That’s really it. In order of intimacy and difficulty we’re looking at fist bump, handshake, high-5, bro-hug and full hug. And given those choices, I’m going to have to go with…

The gladiator handshake!

Whatever happened to that bad-ass move? The gladiator handshake, for those of you not in the know, is when you grab opposite wrists. It’s like an extreme handshake. It’s easy to execute, it’s cool and it’s super-macho. Plus, I can probably filch your watch if you’re not paying close enough attention.

Best of luck ‘greeting’ this holiday season.


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