Top Alternatives to Handshakes for Avoiding Coronavirus

Handshake Alternatives

Getty/Star Trek

With coronavirus (COVID-19) cases growing in the United States, more and more people are looking for friendly and safe alternatives to handshakes. Even Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, is avoiding handshakes these days. Here are some alternatives that you might consider.


Avoid Elbow Bumps. Instead, Put Your Hand on Your Heart.

Dr. Tedros suggests avoiding elbow bumps because they put you too close to the other person. Instead, he likes to put his hand over his heart when he greets people. This is actually a lovely suggestion, as it denotes warmth and caring even if you’re not coming into physical contact.

He wrote on Twitter: “When greeting people, best to avoid elbow bumps because they put you within 1 meter of the other person. I like to put my hand on my heart when I greet people these days.”

One meter is approximately 3.28 feet.

This may be in response to Vice President Mike Pence, who was seen greeting Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington by bumping elbows. Although this is Pence’s suggested alternative, Dr. Tedros believes this still puts people too close to each other. Hillary Clinton also did not shake hands or hug people when her Hulu documentary debuted. Instead, she bumped elbows too, Business Insider reported.

The traditional bow or curtsy also make good options.


Use Spock’s ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Hand Gesture or Do a ‘Footshake’

Others suggest using Spock’s “live long and prosper” gesture.

There’s even a meme about it now.

You can enhance the gesture by saying, “Greetings my fellow co-workers.”

Others prefer an elaborate “shoe bump” or “footshake” instead of a handshake. Bow first and then lightly touch feet.

Some are calling it the Wuhan Shake and think it’s a beautiful testament to how people can adapt and keep their sense of humor.

The peace sign is another option (especially if you just can’t make your hand do the Live Long and Prosper sign correctly.) Simply nodding your head is also just fine, or the Jim and Pam distant high five.

But what do you do if someone tries to force you into shaking their hand? The reality is some people just offer a handshake out of habit. Deep down, they might not really want to shake your hand either, but they’re offering because it’s a pretty ingrained habit that’s hard to break. Others genuinely want to shake hands.

You could yell “NO!” when someone offers to shake your hand, jumping six feet away, and that would get the message across. Or carry plastic gloves with you and make a big show of putting them on before you shake hands, followed by dramatically dropping them in a nearby trashcan.

But if you want to be a little more diplomatic, you can just politely decline and explain that you’re not shaking hands with anyone right now. Or make a joke about it and tell them you have a coronavirus phobia and simply would like to pass. You could even jokingly ask for a raincheck on the handshake. If you’re polite and take time to explain yourself, you might be educating someone in the process. And you could be saving others the awkwardness of turning down a handshake from the same person later.