Asia Returns to Traditional Greetings to Curb Corona Spread

Traditional greetings involving bows and nods are being encouraged across Asia as the coronavirus continues its energetic spread throughout the region.

Asian non-contact greetings are considered far safer than the western customs of shaking hands, hugging or kissing.

Health experts on Wednesday advised against all unnecessary human contact as coronavirus continues to spread.

Though not traditional, handshakes have become increasingly common across Asia in recent years, particularly in urban centres.

In India, the coronavirus outbreak is prompting people to return to the traditional namaste greeting. Known by yoga fans the world over, it involves a slight bow of the head over pressed-together palms.

Bollywood star Anupam Kher took to Twitter to advise his 15 million followers to rediscover the greeting in the age of coronavirus.

“I also want to suggest the age old Indian way of greeting people called namaste. It is hygienic, friendly and centres your energies. Try it.’’ He twitted

In Thailand, the similar wai greeting is a key part of local etiquette, and is performed by placing the hands together in front of the chest and slightly bowing the head.

The greeting, which is also used to say goodbye, sorry, and thank you, is traditionally initiated by the younger party.

Cambodia’s sampeah greeting is similar, with a higher hand placement signifying greater respect.

In China and Japan, where handshakes are in any case less common, the common bow greetings are well suited to increased hygiene concerns.

Non-contact greetings are not common everywhere in Asia, however. In the Philippines handshakes are common in formal settings, as are kisses on the cheek.

It’s thought that Europeans, who are accustomed to both kissing and shaking hands as standard greetings, could learn a lot from Asian practices.

German politicians received a memo urging them to observe hygiene standards and refrain from shaking hands.

Elsewhere, the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe instructed staff: “Do not shake hands. Do not kiss.’’

In Catholic churches in Paris, the traditional sign of peace, a moment during Mass when worshippers shake hands with one another has been suspended.

Other alternative greetings, including waving hands in the air without touching, or bumping fists or elbows are also growing in popularity around the world.


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