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Disaster Handshakes E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Bro Fan
No. 1: The wet fish: Reticent, unsure and often damp. An apparent favourite of the Chinese official, it appears to couple particularly well with flushed cheeks and inane smirk. Eye contact is optional and far from encouraged, and all round execution, timing and apparent sincerity is found to be sorely lacking.  Although lasting no longer than a few seconds, the wet fish handshake can seem endless, and often leaves the handshakee with a definite sense of repulsion.

It appears that many Chinese girls often believe they can get away with this social faux pas of a greeting, hiding behind a bashful grin and trembling bottom lip. This, clearly, is a mistake. No. 2: The On On Ariston: Enthusiastic, keen yet potentially a little too geeky. The greeting is sincere and friendly, but is just overcooked: you meet, look each other in the eye, grasp and squeeze, firm and commendable. But then it happens - your greeting has come to an end, your pleasantries are all but exhausted, and you make to back off and continue with your life.

But no - your opposite number continues with the squeeze, despite you yourself having relaxed your grip! The handshake is now entirely one way, your previous dialogue of a greeting now consists of one apparently totally disinterested party. What to do? Your grip has been relaxed, but do you clasp again, thus drawing further attention to the fact that you had previously considered the greeting to have reached its natural conclusion? Do you continue being nothing more than the passive subject of the grip, and risk becoming a close mimic of Disaster Chinese handshake no. 1?

If you choose to hedge your bets and go for the grip once again - the double squeeze - you can be almost assured that this will happen simultaneously with the initial handshaker (finally) relaxing that interminable grip. Needless to say, you are then left squeezing the wet fish of a newly exhausted handshake.

No. 3: The Asian female handshake

Well, this is basically impossible to fathom. Little wonder that I am still single if I can’t even manage the most basic of all communications with someone without causing maximum bu hao yisi.

Greeting people in general here in China can be a complete headache (handshake? kiss on cheek? man-hug? nose rub? bow? nod of head and slight grimace? high five, brotha?) but when ladies get introduced into the situation it’s enough to make you hide under the table until this awkward social situation has been diffused. All too often have I made the wrong move resulting in intense embarassment for all involved. You know the kind - you go in for a kiss on the cheek (or two - oh how Fulham, dahhhling) since you are a European, dammit, only for the kissee to recoil in horror. What the hell do you think you’re doing? You try and follow with a handshake to add some structure to the disturbing proceedings but the damage is done - you are an inappropriate foreigner who all but gropes those who dare to make themselves known to you.

So, again, what to do? Between themselves, girls find it perfectly acceptable to wear a fixed moronic grin and laugh whilst waving at each other at a distance of no more than six inches. Guys are happy with the handshake so long as no. 1, and especially no. 2 are avoided at all costs (but often this is just too much to ask). Should I, as a red-blooded European male, adopt the moronic grin/wave combo? Should I offer my palm and risk crushing the young maiden’s newly-manicured digits (being mindful that Disaster Chinese Handshake no.1 is a likely occurence)? Do I just plough in with the kisses regardless of the consequences (after all, we all know she’ll love it anyway)?

My my, what a social minefield!

Our valuable Editor Bro Fan has been with us since Sunday, 06 June 2010.

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