R.I.P. to the Handshake?

March 2020

I recently learned that the handshake is thought to originate in Medieval Europe. I’ve read slightly contradictory accounts of how it evolved.  My favourite version is that knights would shake the hand of others in an attempt to loosen any hidden weapons. Another source I found stated that it was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon.

In exploring the topic, I found modern references to the handshake that discussed it from a gendered perspective. If the measure of a man is in how strong his handshake is, where does that leave woman?

I have always found handshakes awkward. And don’t even get me started on cheek kisses. One kiss? Two? Three? Which side do you start on? Do you actually kiss someone’s cheek or just make a little noise? For someone who grew up in northern Ontario and isn’t very well travelled, I simply haven’t had enough exposure to the practice to fully understand the protocol.

Google ‘handshake’ today, and you’ll get an entirely new view. It is simply impossible to practice social distancing when using traditional greetings. Once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, one wonders how many people will continue to use alternative forms of greeting.

We are truly in an unprecedented time. All regular routines have been disrupted. For those in the business of immigration law, changes have been coming by the hour. Yesterday, we were hearing from colleagues that a case processing centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia not been accepting couriered applications. We had sent a spousal sponsorship application that day, and our assistant was anxiously waiting for the delivery email from UPS. This morning she advised that the application had been successfully delivered. She noted the signature of the person who accepted the package. It had been signed, ‘COVID CODY’. I’m glad someone in the mailroom has maintained their sense of humour.

I have only praise for how Canadian government officials have been handling this crisis. Most public servants are working from home, many simultaneously caring for children not in daycare or school. I respect their efforts to make decisions, provide services, and communicate to all of us.

Immigrations, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has posted information to their website as follows:

Special measures to help temporary and permanent residents and applicants affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID‑19)

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Program delivery instructions