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Creative Greetings in Times of Physical Distancing

Imagine getting ready for an exciting occasion, a ceremony, an outdoor concert, or a coffee with an old friend and, instead of thinking about the fun you will have, you find yourself worrying about how to greet the people you are going to meet.

Our lives during this pandemic have taken a major turn and generally slowed down to the point where everyone is finally looking forward to going back to some sort of normality and routine. The “new normal” we are currently living forces us to adapt to a lot of things, and one of them is practicing physical distance with every human being that does not live in the same household as us. Physical distancing is highly recommended and even enforced in some places, as it is one of the most effective ways to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

In this article, we would like to cover one sociological aspect of physical distancing: the lack of widely accepted and expected gestures of greeting.

The use of a specific greeting has to do with being polite, showing respect, knowing the culture, and wanting to show affection and care. However, being unable to use physical touch, like a handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek, does not mean that we cannot greet each other. It just means that we need to be curious and creative.

“Greeting” as a Cultural Aspect 

Whenever visiting a new country (especially those more exotic and far from our own), one of the first things check is the culturally accepted ways of interacting with people, dress codes, common ways of greeting, and a few words to use.

A lot of cultures across the world, have greetings that do not involve touching. Do you recall any from your previous trips or your country of origin? Bring back the memories of greeting locals in a small village or neighborhood. If you use the specific greeting in your everyday life, it will spark conversation about the culture of a particular country, what you enjoyed doing there, who you met, and what you learned.

Psychologists say that recalling happy memories is a way to take a break from reality and induce some positive emotions. In this way, you traded a hug and oxytocin (the love hormone) with a gesture and recreation of a happy memory. Unsure of what to use, have a look at our list for ideas:

  • India: palms pressed together over the heart, namaste!
  • Thailand: hands together in prayer and a slight bow
  • Japan: just bow, obviously skip the handshake
  • Massai people in Kenya: make a one-time high jump, the highest you can do…


Greeting Others in Your Own Style

Come up with your own signature greeting: Something that reminds you of a funny story you cannot share enough, a gesture or reaction you and your friends and family would not mind sharing. A moment turned into a greeting will always remind you of how blessed you are to be able to make memories with loved ones.

Other authentic greetings like the “elbow bump” and the “foot shake” are being used widely now. Why don’t you give it a try and propose the heart sign with fingers spread — a heart supported by both hands in a welcoming, friendly way to symbolize that “Nobody Stands Alone”. Would you use this sign as a greeting in your next Changemakers activity? Do you have other original ideas to share with us?

Whatever your greeting style will be, let it bring some joy and thoughtfulness into your lives. Above all, stay safe and continue to spread love and kindness, and humanity will come out stronger.

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