The Secret Handshake.

I’ve never had so many awkward moments from such a simple task as I have with handshaking in Sierra Leone.  I’m still not sure what the rules are and clearly I’m doing it all wrong.  At this point I’ve only established three things to avoid:

1.  The speedy pull away: Never being a handshake lingerer in the past, I go to make my quick and concise exchange and pull back, only to realize, too late, that the other person is attempting to hook my thumb and clasp around it.

2. The attempt to re-engage: Once realizing that the handshake is actually NOT complete, I push forward again to start over, only to confuse the other person more.

3.  The endless handshake:  Finally deciding to train myself to let the other person lead the exchange, I’ve been in involved in handshakes that start with the hand, hook and clasp around the thumb, back to the hand, and so forth for multiple repetitions.  Not knowing the magic number of reps, I’ve let this kind of handshake go for, undoubtedly, too long.

I tell you, handshaking is tricky business in Sierra Leone…especially with this group.

This is most of the crew of workers employed by Alastair’s company.  Some work inside the camp and many do field work, deep in the bush.  They are an extremely friendly group of guys.  I think they just like to look serious for photographs :)


4 thoughts on “The Secret Handshake.

  1. What are the rules about who extends their hand first?
    Are there flirty handshakes, high fives and ways to get out of handshaking altogether? What is the pinky finger doing all this time?

    • Pinky finger? You’re a weirdo Mom :) I don’t think there are ways of getting out of handshaking, greetings are huge in this culture. I’m just never sure about what I’m doing, though. Al mentioned they do the hook and grip thingy to show more respect but I don’t know. Sometimes a person will cross their other arm over when shaking, some will bow heads. You just have to go with it :)

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