Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Limp handshakes

I don't know why I haven't written about this sooner! I had a meeting this morning and was pleasantly greeted by a Consultant possessing a firm & friendly handshake, which totally took me by surprise and made me happy! It wasn't "me caveman" kida strong, just FIRM and I liked it...probably a little TOO much given I felt compelled to blog about it.

It might sound trivial and strange, but this isn't something we experience much here (it preturbs Duma more so than I) given most men simply don't shake hands with women, even if we extend our hands. Its cultural and understandable. But Duma feels awkward when going to client meetings and other men shake his fingers or extend a soft hand - he reckons it feels like they are caressing or tickling his palms lol!

So...what of the soft-handedness??? It was one of the things Duma and I first observed having moved to Oman and starting work, because it is common practice. Whilst I expect this from the women, in our part of the world a man with a limp handshake is often linked to a weak character or perhaps someone lacking confidence (I'm not even going to go where some people will go, in reference to sexual orientation).

Now, this isn't to accuse men who exhibit any of the above behaviours as being weak or unconfident, but it does FEEL a little disturbing...or is it just us?

I will say that one thing I really like about people here is that Omani women greet by shaking hands & Indians (male & female) head wobble. I still get tickled with the head wobbling and bobbing :)

So some women kiss cheeks (I'm comfortable with this level of PDA) if they haven't seen each other in a while...BUT the nicest thing I have observed is that when they ask how you are, they REALLY want to know how you (and your family / village / pets etc) are!!! It isn't like back home where you pass someone and they ask "Hi, how are you?" while continuing on their way and not even stopping for the answer. People here actually care about your response, hang on your every word and ask more than once regarding how you are. And while a conversation or simple greeting can feel like it takes 10 minutes - it's refreshing, its genuine and its sincere.

And that's my 2c for today.


  1. Regarding handshakes, it's just a cultural difference. 'Assertive' handshakes (as espoused in the West) translate to arrogance in Oman. A soft handshake indicates you're a nice person of humility and whatnot.

    -Omani in US

  2. Thanks for the insight OIUS and for stopping by. A friend did tell me yesterday that a strong handshake is seen as aggressive.

  3. They don't care the slightest bit how you are. The Omani 'machine gun' greeting which involves asking in 10 different ways how every aspect of your life is (except your wife of course) and not listening o the answer, is entirely ritualistic and mechanical. It is basically meaningless and does not indicate any more interest than the western "how are you?". It just wastes more time.


  4. Sorry to hear that has been your experience WM, but mine has been totally the opposite 'in Oman'.

  5. I had one of those hand shakes today, I tried to shake the hand of a business partner and it was so fair from her side, I thought I was actually hurting her, then she moved her hand away before it was actually completed. Is it just me?

  6. I love a strong handshake. I can allow and embrace cultural differances but if I get a weak handshake in the US or Australia it makes me completely uncomfortable!