Handshaking in China

Handshaking, is a kind of silent language, which is especially more important in China, although it is a popularly used form of greeting in many countries worldwide. It is the common propriety on most social occasions as an expression of courtesy and greeting when people meet or say goodbye to each other. Besides, handshaking is also a way to express congratulations, thanks and encouragement to others. Generally, you can make a simple address or beckon and then shake hands with each other, simultaneously with exchange of greetings.

As for the question as to who should offer his hand first, there are some basic principles you should follow. Generally speaking, the elder, the senior, the teacher (compared with the students), the female, the married (compared with the unmarried), the superior should reach out their hands first. If you have to shake hands with more than one person, you should shake hands in succession with the senior and superior to the junior and inferior, from the nearest to the furthest.

Specially, when the host meets the guest, the host should shake hands first to show his welcome; however, when they say goodbye with each other, it is the guest who should offer his hand first.

There are also some exceptions. If someone, no matter whether he is superior or not, offers his hand before you, it is courteous to give an unreserved response.

Then how to shake hands with others? Generally, you should pay much attention to the time and strength. It is inappropriate to shake hands too long or too short, three to five seconds is the best, not exceed to 30 seconds at most. Handshaking should be simple and light, without over exertion.

There are also some things that are unacceptable when shaking hands:

a. Shake hands absent-mindedly.
b. Shake hands with left hand.
c. Shake hands while wearing a hat, gloves or sunglasses.
d. Shake hands crossways.
e. Having your other hand in your pocket.
f. Shake hands while seated unless disabled.
g. Refuse to shake hands with others.

 Further Reading : Chinese Names

- Last updated on Aug. 23, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on Handshaking in China
Asked by Matt from UNITED STATES | Mar. 06, 2024 21:05Reply
Shake with a tickle
I am a male and was in a meeting with a powerful business man from China. When we were shaking hands, he tickled my palm with his little finger. I was quite confused at what it meant. Was it a sexual message? Is it common in Chinese culture? It made me feel uncomfortable.
Answers (1)
Answered by Nathan | Mar. 07, 2024 00:13

Well, it is not so common in Chinese culture. In most cases, it is not so polite to have such a behavior between two unfamiliar people. However, sometimes friends and senior people may do this to show friendliness and closeness. I'm not sure which kind of situation you have met. If you feel uncomfortable, just avoid to shake hands with the person.
Asked by Jade from AUSTRALIA | Aug. 22, 2017 02:20Reply
I recently met an idol of mine, and he's from China. He grabbed my hand and held it in between his two hands. I had no idea what to do so I also put my hand on his other hand. Did I do it right?
Answers (1)
Answered by Peter from CANADA | Aug. 22, 2017 20:47

It's ok whether you put your hand on his other hand or not. He used two hands to hold you just to show his warm welcome.
Asked by Allen from USA | Aug. 08, 2017 10:44Reply
Curled Finger
I recently shook hands with a Chinese colleague who curled his middle finger as our hands clasped, thus preventing a palm-to-palm handshake. Is there a hidden significance in his choice to shake my hand in this way?
Answers (2)
Answered by Oliver from SOUTH KOREA | Aug. 09, 2017 01:14

Hi, I once heard that a curled finger during handshake shows that he/she looks down on you somehow, but it is not common in China. The case you mentioned may be just his personal habit with no bad meaning. Maybe he has some sort of nervous tics with his hand. So don't take it too serious.
Answered by Allen from USA | Aug. 09, 2017 02:27

Thank you, Oliver.
In this particular circumstance, your explanation does makes sense.
My Chinese colleague likely does have a poor opinion of me. :-(
Asked by Dmitry from CAMBODIA | Jul. 25, 2017 23:17Reply
Is shaking hand with sunglasses on your head okay?
For example, if you go to shake hands with someone and you're wearing sunglasses, is it okay to put them on your head to shake hands? Or should you take them off and just hold them?
Answers (2)
Answered by Peter from CANADA | Jul. 26, 2017 21:17

Out of politeness, it is best to take off your sunglasses and shake hands with others.
Answered by Dmitry from CAMBODIA | Jul. 27, 2017 17:44

Thank you!
Asked by Jackie from USA | Aug. 22, 2012 15:55Reply
I am old and it hurts to shake hands. I want to be polite. How do I keep from shaking hands?
Answers (1)
Answered by Ben | Aug. 22, 2012 20:54

Shaking hands is the most polite way to greet with people, but if you want to avoid it, you can weave your hands to greet with people or just say hello to people. They will accept.
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