Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How People Shake Hands In Various African Nations (article excerpts & videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides seven excerpts from online articles about how people shake hands in the Cameroons, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia.

This post also includes several videos that demonstrate how of people shake hands in The Democratic Republic of The Congo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Liberia, South Africa, and Zambia.

[Note: Additional videos were added on March 4, 2018, changing the previous numbers assigned to some videos.]

This is part of an ongoing pancocojams series on Black handshake gestures.

Click for Part IV of a four part 2012 series on black handshakes. The links to the other parts of that series are found in that post.

The handshake that was performed in the 2018 Black Panther movie inspired me to do further online research on this subject. Click for the pancocojams post entitled "Video Examples Of & Comments About The Black Panther Movie's "Secret Handshake" & The "Wakanda Forever" Salute"

The content of this post is presented for cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

These excerpts are presented in no particular order. I've assigned numbers for referencing purposes only.

From South Africa’s Secret Handshake: How to Do it, What it Means
by Paula Froelich, September 23, 2014
...."In South Africa, especially in Soweto, the preferred greeting is a handshake. This one happens to be way more elaborate. The first couple of times I tried it, I felt like I was on a dance floor with two left feet. So, in order to save you the embarrassment I suffered, I had my friend Andrew perform the handshake with a Soweto local.

Don’t forget to snap hard at the end!

(Nota bene: A condensed version is just the first three steps: shake, grip thumbs, shake again)."
This article includes a GIF of that handshake.

Google Search led me to this excerpt from From National Geographic Traveler South Africa [South Africa] by Roberta Cosi, ‎David Lambkin, ‎Richard Whitaker (2009)
..."described a Zulu handshake as "a three-part shake, beginning with a traditional handshake, shifting into an arm wrestling position, and returning to the first position. The three shakes, which move smoothly on from each other, cover the usual conversation: "Hello." "How are you?" and "I am" [fine]...
I couldn't find this snippet from that book on the linked page. Instead, that page describes visiting various South African scenic wonders. However, the description of the second part of the handshake as "arm wrestling position” is particularly apt for an American reader like me.

From Cameroon Guide: Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette [Cameroon]
"Etiquette and Customs in Cameroon
Meeting and Greeting
Cameroonian greetings vary between the Francophone and Anglophone areas.

In both areas, men shake hands with each other.

In the Francophone south, close friends may embrace while brushing cheeks and kissing the air along with a handshake.

In the Anglophone north, close friends have a unique handshake in which, as they pull their hands back they snap the other person’s middle finger with their thumb.

As a sign of respect men often lower their head and avert their eyes when greeting someone superior to them in age or position.

Some Muslims will not shake hands across genders.

Since this is a hierarchical society, elders are greeted first.

Women tend not to look the other person in the eye even if it is another woman.

Greetings should never be rushed. It is important to take time to inquire about the person’s family and other matters of general interest during the greeting process."

From A beginner’s guide to African handshakes [Zambia]
"Just how do you shake hands in Africa? Australian traveller Liam Walls became increasingly baffled by handshake protocol as he made his way down the continent – but by the time he reached Zambia he reckoned he’d grasped the basics.

Handshake--If you are in any way averse to shaking hands, then perhaps Zambia isn’t for you. It is not just how often you’ll need to perform this act but also the sheer number of variations that you’ll have to negotiate. Inexperience can lead to many an awkward introduction and, as with dancing, if you don’t know the moves, you may end up fumbling and fondling rather than achieving the perfectly choreographed embrace. Here I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of the most common handshakes the first-timer is likely to encounter. They vary in difficulty and can be combined in various ways. And don’t forget: it’s always right hand only. (Sorry, lefties.)


[content] Taken from Travel Zambia magazine, edition 7, 2012"
This article's descriptions of handshake variations are written in a lightly humorous manner. For example:
“Clicker casual finisher; difficulty 9/10
After the switcheroo, click your fingers around the thumb of your partner’s hand as he does the same around yours. It’s tricky to get proper traction but if you pull this off you achieve ultimate cool.

Thumb slip casual finisher; difficulty 7/10
You might be pulled into this one to finish. Hook fingers, pressing the pad of your thumb against your partner’s. Press and slip your thumbs past each other to complete. No click sound is required, but a big smile and a friendly pat on your partner’s shoulder wouldn’t go amiss.

Extended hold finisher; difficulty 2/10 (physical), 8/10 (psychological)
Don’t be alarmed if, after a shake, your partner doesn’t let go. Relax: it’s just affection and will soon be over. Well, perhaps not soon, but eventually.”

From [Nigeria]
How to Greet Yoruba parents and elders.Posted on May 1, 2013 by Oyinbo African Abeni

In Africa there are many ways to Greet parents and elders. In most parts of Africa they Kneel to there parents or elders.

What some people don’t know is greeting Yoruba parents or elders is different from the “normal” African Greeting. In the past Yoruba male children will greet there elders by laying down on the ground in front of there parent/elders and female will kneel on both knees with her hands at her back and greet them with “Good morning ma/sir. Hope you slept well” etc. or what else you may like to add. The elder will place their hand on the child’s head as they speak, you will then wait to be told to stand before you get up from the ground. Rushing up after saying good morning is not good and shows some kinda of lack of respect. Unfortunately a lot of Yoruba’s these days don’t greet there parents in this way, the more “modern” day way of greeting parents/elders is females going to them and kneeling on one knee and males bending over or droping there hand to their feet. I guess as the years have past things have changed lol

Something you must NOT do, is walk up to an elder and shake there hand or hug them. This is a big NO GO! Kneeling is a sign of respect and culture so to just shake someones hand is like you are meeting a stranger. Even if it is your first time of meeting the person, this doesn’t mean you should shake there hand and see them as a stranger. So far they are older than you are and they are Yoruba or even just African, then you should show your respect to them. Respect must ALWAYS be shown to elders. Anytime of any day."
"Oyinbo" is a Yoruba term for "White people". Here's the information that this blogger shared about how she (or he) got this name: from
"About me: Well my real name is Kerry Park, the nickname “OyinboAfrican” was just adopted from Nigerian friends lol I’m Scottish and now living back in Scotland for work."

From [Culture Crossing Guide: Nigeria]
Men greeting Men - Men usually shake hands with the right hand. It is common to hold on to the hand during the whole initial part of the conversation. If there is a difference in status then the junior man should bow slightly. In the north of the country, instead of bowing many make a gesture of a clenched fist in front of the chest, derived from presenting spears to their Emir. It is customary in many parts for the senior person to initiate the greeting,

Women greeting Women – Handshakes are common during initial meetings. Good friends and family may exchange a kiss on the cheek and a hug in certain parts of the country.

Greetings between Men & Women – In the north of the country which is mostly Muslim, physical contact between the sexes is discouraged, so a northern woman is unlikely to shake a man’s hand and vice-versa. As a man, it’s best to wait to see if a woman offers her hand before offering yours. In the south of the country, greetings are much the same as between men.”

From Culture and etiquette [Kenya]
Every contact between people in Kenya starts with a greeting. Even when entering a shop, you shake hands and make polite small talk with the shopkeeper. Shaking hands upon meeting and departure is normal between all the men present. Women shake hands with each other, but with men only in more sophisticated contexts. Soul-brother handshakes and other, finger-clicking variations are popular among young men, while a common, very respectful handshake involves clutching your right arm with your left hand as you shake or, in Muslim areas, touching your left hand to your chest when shaking hands."...

From Etiquette and Customs in Kenya [Kenya]
"Meeting and Greeting
The most common greeting is the handshake.

When greeting someone with whom you have a personal relationship, the handshake is more prolonged than the one given to a casual acquaintance.

Close female friends may hug and kiss once on each cheek instead of shaking hands.
When greeting an elder or someone of higher status, grasp the right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands to demonstrate respect.

Muslim men/women do not always shake hands with women/men.

The most common greeting is “Jambo?” (“How are you?”), which is generally said immediately prior to the handshake.

After the handshake it is the norm to ask questions about the health, their family, business and anything else you know about the person.

To skip or rush this element in the greeting process is the height of poor manners."..."

Example #1:The Ghanaian Handshake

Cscghana, Published on Oct 13, 2008

IBM Corporate Service Corps participant Christian Albertsen learns the proper way to shake hands in Ghana.
Here's a comment from this video's discussion thread:
Jimmy Fuseini, 2009
"They're not doing it right, you need to hang on the the other person's middle finger with your thumb and middle finger, while the other person does the same, then try and snap your fingers (still with the other person's finger in betweeen yours) if you get a 'snap', you have done it. if not, try again. lol"

Example #2: Congo Brazza Greeting

Mulonguissi, Published on Nov 6, 2006

The way men greet each other in Congo Brazza

Example #3: Ghana Chronicles 6: The Ghanaian Handshake

mints54, Published on Aug 4, 2009

Aaron gives the boys a lesson on how to do a real Ghanaian handshake. Let's watch!
Here's a comment from this video's discussion thread:
Kaos Experiment, 2013
"Yo man I read your story on mmoatia its crazy thats exactly the description Ive been given by my parents and grandparents of their appearance (Im Ghanaian)"

Example #4: A lesson in how to shake hands (in Liberia)

Mercy Corps, Published on May 19, 2010

On a trip to Liberia, Mercy Corps' Writer Bija Gutoff, learns how women and men shake hands.
This Video notes that men’s handshakes and women’s handshakes are different in Liberia.

Example #5: Zambian Handshake

Skip Ward, Published on Mar 1, 2013

Example #6: How to do an African Handshake

UBuntu Bridge, Published on Aug 21, 2013
Here's a comment exchange from this video's discussion thread:
Thaynara Missias, 2016
"what country?"

Flash, 2017
"Southern of Africa"

Example #7: The Liberian "Secret" Handshake Monrovia

Shiran De Silva, Published on Jun 18, 2014
However, unlike the formality of a hand shake,

There's a secret handshake in Liberia and the entire country is in on it.

It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see around a high school -- grab, bump, grab, snap -- but it's grown men and respected women on the community who are doing it. Even children are practicing to get the perfect audible snap.

Example #8: The Ethiopian handshake

R Hayat, Published on Apr 19, 2015

Here are two kind locals demonstrating the Ethiopian handshake just for my camera. This handshake is normal all over Ethiopia - and maybe beyond.

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