Give flowers, not kisses: Social courtesies around the world take a tumble over coronavirus panic - GulfToday

Give flowers, not kisses: Social courtesies around the world take a tumble over coronavirus panic


Wearing a mask can help check the coronavirus from spreading.

Gulf Today Report

It is not just cities that have gone into a lockdown over the virus, social habits have taken a hit too. What would elicit a tacit yes to normal acts of social courtesy is now a no-no.

More than 91,000 people worldwide, the vast majority of them in China, have been infected and over 3,100 have died due to the virus.

The delicate but highly contagious virus, roughly one-900th the width of a human hair, is spreading from person to person across the globe.

Result: everything that was normal is not normal anymore. People the world over who would naturally extend a hand as a sign of greeting are now being told to put the gesture on hold; those used to a peck on the cheek as a normal salutation have been urged to refrain from it; and hugging has gone flying out of the window. In short, no body contact. Instead, try a direct gaze. Or say it with flowers.

Globally, people are changing their habits at work, home and in worship to avoid taking chancy stunts after the outbreak.
A look at some of the changes in behaviour.

A man wearing a face mask rides a bicycle in Wuhan, China.

In Beijing where the outbreak began, red hoardings tell people not to shake hands but to join their own hands together in a sign of greeting.
Announcements are made on loudspeakers telling people to make the traditional ‘gong shou’ gesture – a fist in the opposite palm – to say hello.

Newspapers in France have been filled with advice on how to replace kissing on the cheek – an everyday greeting in France, even between people who have only just met – and handshaking, a common formality at work.
Etiquette expert Philippe Lichtfus, who has been widely cited in the media, says handshakes are a relatively recent development that began in the Middle Ages.
He says simply looking into a person's eyes can suffice as a greeting.

Germany virus 21
Horst Seehofer and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk before a migration summit. Reuters

In a sign of the times, Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer rebuffed Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to shake hands with him on Monday, smiling and keeping both his hands to himself.
They both laughed and Merkel threw her hand up in the air before taking a seat.
The outbreak could hit one of Spain's most cherished traditions – the kissing of sculptures of the Virgin Mary in the week leading up to Easter.
With just a month to go before the week starts, the ritual could be banned. "It is one of the measures that is on the table," said national health official Fernando Simon.
During the holy week, the faithful queue up to kiss the hands or feet of sculptures of Mary and the saints, seeking their protection.

Brazil's health ministry has recommended that citizens not share metal straws used to consume the caffeine-rich South American drink mate, also known as chimarrao.
Meanwhile a kiss – even if not on the mouth – is totally advised against as a greeting.

Italy virus 4Passengers wearing masks as a precautionary measure to avoid contracting COVID-19 arrive on a flight from Italy at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Romania's Martisor festival marks the beginning of spring when talismanic strings and flowers are handed out, often from men to women.

But the government has passed on a message to people urging them to hand over the flowers and talismans without the accompanying kiss. "Let's give the flowers but not the kiss," said Nelu Tataru, state secretary at the health ministry.

In Poland, one of Europe's most Catholic countries, the faithful are allowed to take "spiritual communion" instead of consuming the communal bread -- or it can be taken in the hands rather than the mouth.

The faithful have also been asked not to dip their hands in holy water when going in and out of the church and instead make the sign of the cross.

A video in Lebanon shows singer Ragheb Alama and comedian Michel Abou Sleiman tapping their feet against each other while making kissing noises with their mouths.

Japan virus 2A woman in traditional Japanese kimono wears a face mask while visiting Sensoji temple. AFP

New Zealand
Some educational institutions in New Zealand have temporarily abandoned the Maori greeting known as the hongi – which involves two people pressing their noses together.
Wellington polytechnic WelTec said that instead of staff greeting new students with a hongi, its welcome ceremony would instead include a waiata, or Maori song.

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged Australians to kiss with caution and suggested a pat on the back instead of a handshake.
"It's a very Australian thing to put your hand out to shake hands, for example. I would be suggesting to the community... it's time that Aussies actually gave each other a pat on the back for the time being – no handshaking," he said.

"There are other things that can be done – I'm not going to say don't kiss, but certainly you could be exercising a degree of care and caution with who you choose to kiss."

United States
NBA stars have been given a series of recommendations including that players interacting with fans should bump fists rather than high-five and avoid taking items such as pens, balls and jerseys to autograph, ESPN reported.

Some players have already taken steps to limit their exposure to the virus. Portland Trail Blazers star C.J. McCollum said he was no longer signing autographs because of the outbreak.
"Make sure y'all washing y'all hands with soap for 20 or more seconds & covering ya mouths when you cough," McCollum wrote on Twitter.

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