South Africa’s Secret Handshake: How to Do it, What it Means


You don’t want to get this wrong. (Gif: Daria Klenert)

Everywhere you go, all over the world, the greetings are different.

In the United States, we prefer a firm handshake (no limp wrists, please). In Japan, it’s a bow. In France, it’s a kiss on two cheeks; in Chile, it’s excessive cheek kissing (or maybe it was just that one particular hotel doorman).

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With the exception of Russia, where strangers are often ignored, knowing the local greeting will help you fit in and ease your way into your travels.

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).

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