October 1, 2008

Shake it, baby, shake it!

About seven years ago I was working as an implementation project manager at a large German multi-national car company. One of the things that struck me at this time was how formal some of my German colleagues on the project were. For example, one of the German team leads would shake everyone’s hand in the morning and following his example, so would everyone else on that team. And it’s not like he was super old or of royal descent or anything that might have explained it - he was just your basic mid-to-upper level manager working with the same people every day. I’m not a big hand shaker so I started grabbing a coffee when he came because if I missed the first pass he wouldn’t chase me down later to shake my hand, which would have been disturbing rather than just interesting. Anyway, in this somewhat unusual fashion we all worked quite well together but I always kind of wondered what was up with that.

Fast forward seven years later and when I pick up my kids at Kindergarten, what do they do before I can take them home? They shake hands with their teacher! Another mystery solved.


  1. (everything's in German so i only hope i am doing this correctly)

    This doesn't explain anything about Germans, but I noticed a long time ago that although the Japanese never hug or kiss (unless they have been tainted, i.e., westernized), when they shake hands with each other willingly (not being pushed into it by a Westerner meeting them for the first time) it's a big deal. Did you notice that, Laura? E.g., at farewells among relatives or when reuniting with long-parted friends, and such.

  2. Hey Christine, thanks for commenting. I actually felt pretty comfortable in Japan with the non-contact rule, at least in the office. Of course, I always hug my Japanese friends mercilessly! The 'tainted' ones hug back.


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