Business Traveler’s Guide to Global Handshake Etiquette

Handshake Etiquette Tips for Doing Business Around the World

When is the last time you confidently shook hands with someone? If you find yourself wondering if you executed your handshake properly, you a not alone. A survey indicated over 70% of respondents lacked confidence when performing a handshake.

The average person will shake hands 15,000 times throughout their lifetime. And, it is safe to say, corporate travelers are going to be above average when it comes to shaking hands. A handshake can reveal a lot about someone, but how do you know if you are executing it correctly? Our friends at Expedia create this lovely infographic to break down handshake etiquette around the world for business travelers.

Handshake Etiquette Around the World

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When shaking hands in the USA, provide a firm handshake, along with an introduction. Be sure to shake hands with everyone in the meeting.

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In Mexico, a handshake should have medium firmness and may end in a hug, if you are a man. When greeting a Mexican woman, bow and shake her hand, if she offers.

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Canadians prefer a firmer handshake when meeting and leaving. Women will extend their hand first. Hugs are acceptable between close friends and kissing is only for family or couples.

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When shaking hands in Brazil, maintain eye contain return the firm grasp.  Kiss women on the cheek, one to three times, depending on your location.

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In Morocco, only shake hands with someone of the same sex. The handshake should be soft and light. Do not offer your hand to a women when greeting her, wait for her to extend her hand.

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In South Africa, handshaking can vary region to region, with some communities having specific techniques. Use a gentle grip and wait for the other person to release first.

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Before extending a  handshake in China, keep in mind a simple nod is often acceptable. Should you decide to shake hands, start with the eldest person first, bow slightly and avoid eye contact.

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In Japan, only shake hands if someone else initiates. Do not make eye contact and do not stand too close.

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When shaking hands in South Korea, support your right forearm with your left hand to show respect. In a group setting, start with the eldest person.

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In Thailand, wait for the other person to bow in “wai” first, then return the gesture. It is an insult not to retain the “wai”. Only shake hands with men.

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When shaking hands in the Philippines, offer a weak grip and look the person in the eye.

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In Austrailia, it is customary for women to offer their hands to men first, while not shaking with other women. It is important to remember to shake hands with everyone present upon arrival and before leaving.

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A medium grip is appropriate the first time you meet someone in New Zealand. After you meet them, do not shake their hand again.

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In the UK, approach the handshake with a light handshake and widen personal space after. Avoid making prolonged eye contact when meeting the first time.

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When shaking hands in France, keep it quick. Keep in mind, family and friends greet with a kiss on both cheeks.

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In Norway avoid asking “how are you” and greet everyone with a handshake instead. Men, it is customary to stand up to give handshakes.

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When shaking hands in Switzerland, maintain eye contact and remember that first names are reserved for close friends and family only.

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In Turkey, shake hands softly and slowly. And, if it feels like you are holding hands, do not be alarmed, that is a sign of friendship.

Do you have any handshake etiquette tips for travelers? Please share below!

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Business Travel Life

Business Travel Life is an online resource supporting the road warrior lifestyle. We give business travelers the tools they need to maintain their wellness and productivity when traveling. The topics we cover include business travel tips, travel workouts, healthy travel hacks, travel products, general travel tips, and industry trends. Our goal is to make business travel a healthier experience – and to make healthy travel practices more accessible to all road warriors.

Kristina Portillo, CPT, MS

Kristina is the founder of Business Travel Life. Her love of fitness and travel unified to create a resource for business travelers and road warriors who want to take a healthier approach to business travel. She has traveled for business on and off for the past eight years. Kristina received a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Colorado State University and received her Bachelors of Arts in Business Marketing from Chaminade University of Honolulu.

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