Dr Austin Tay


With the outbreak of Covid-19 increasing and spreading to many more countries, we are all advised to maintain hand hygiene to reduce the spread.  Prince Charles opted for a “namaste” instead of shaking hands at the Prince Trust’s Awards this week. This got me thinking. Since most of us are working from home and are continuing to collaborate with our colleagues through video conferencing, would it not be great to use another way to greet each other, since we are not able to shake hands. So instead of just a “Hello”, why not try something different.


Being based in Asia, I am exposed to three different ethnicities – Chinese, Malay and Indian. Each of these ethnicities has always used their own way to greet one another. The following are non-hand shaking greetings that you can try.


Chinese greeting


The half fist and palm salute is a standard greeting used by the Chinese. It is a form of greeting to show gratitude towards others and in traditional settings such as Chinese New Year. Although modern Chinese have started using handshakes, this type of Chinese greeting is a way to show respect towards others through distance (which I think is so appropriate at this time). There is a difference between men and women when it comes to the way this greeting is presented. For men, the left palm is placed over the right half fist, and for women, the right palm is placed over the left half fist.


chinese family greeting


Malay greeting


In the Malay tradition, the greeting is “Salam”. Both men and women will stretch their hands out, and you can lightly touch their hands and in return bring back one hand and place on your heart to indicate, ” I greet you with all my heart”.  Both men and women will offer their hands. It has to be noted that this greeting is not done towards the opposite sex (unless they are related). A simplified version is to use a hand on heart as a greeting which can be appropriate at this time.


Malay man greeting


Traditional Greeting

hand on heart


Simplified Greeting Version


Indian greeting


A standard greeting used by Indians is “Namaste”. This greeting is coupled with a slight bow and hands are pressed together and placed close to the heart. This gesture is also known as Anjali Mudra, a gesture also used in traditional ritual, yoga and dance.





As we are all trying our best to cope with the spread of the Covid-19, we should not forget to remain kind to one another.

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