Caroline Tison


Please don’t shake my hand. Oh, and don’t kiss me either

This past Sunday I was at a fundraising concert that was organized by the wonderfully talented West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra. As I entered the church and saw our local member of Parliament in the entrance, right away I advised him that I had a scratchy throat and to “stay away.”  He was fine with this and probably appreciative that I not share my germs with him.

I took a few more steps and ran into someone I knew. He was too quick and just like that, before I could even utter a single word, he was already kissing me on both cheeks. So much for trying to curb the spreading of germs! Then he introduced me to his colleague, who stuck his hand out to shake mine.  “OK, I give up,” I told myself.  I shook his hand.

I must have been hugged and kissed by at least 20 people, not to mention the 15 or so people that I shook hands with. I just had a slight scratchy throat, and it’s fine today. (If you are one of the people I hugged, kissed or shook hands with and you are sick today, it wasn’t me, I swear!)

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s flu season.  Actually, it’s pneumonia, bronchitis, cold and Norwalk virus season! And I have to admit, I am shocked (OK, appalled) at how many people have kissed, hugged or shook my hand in the past few weeks, and nano seconds after, tell me that they are sick, are going to bed because they feel too sick to stand, or that they are just getting over gastro.  WHAT???  Why the heck did you just kiss me?  Why did you shake my hand right after you coughed in yours?

My friends will tell you that I am a germaphobe. No. I am not scared of German tourists.  But rather, I am kind of obsessed with defeating bacteria. I almost gave my friend a heart attack in the Jamaica airport a few years ago as I screamed when I saw her place her hand on the rail of the escalator. And trust me, for someone like me that works with the public, it’s not an easy thing to contend with.

So why is it that we feel so compelled to touch everyone? Is it our European heritage?  Are we too “Canadian” and don’t want to offend the other person by rejecting their friendly gesture?

I am thinking there should be a rule that between Nov. 1st and May 1st, no one is to touch another person.  And I am told by some doctors that shaking hands is THE ABSOLUTE WORST.  Better to “fake kiss on both cheeks” or hug.

So can we all agree to keep our hands in our pockets until spring comes around? Now seems like a good time to start bowing.

If you have any insights into why we feel so compelled to touch others, or if you would like to share your tips about limiting the spread of germs, please share your comments by adding a comment below.  We sure could use your insight to have a heathier holiday season.


  1. Hi, One way that our Parish in the West Island use to help curb the spread of germs is that in lieu of shaking/touching hands when we share the sign of peace is that we simply clasp our hand in front of us and bow while offering words of peace to each other. It really helps when the Priest or Deacon mentions that we are all doing this at the beginning of each Mass … this way we do not feel uncomfortable with not thrusting out our hand to our neighbours and all of us are content in that we can still share the sign of peace without sharing germs.
    Hope this helps!

  2. By Elsie Treize

    Actually, placing your hand on the escalator (or stairs) handrail is very important for your safety! If you trip, you could hit your head, or knock out some of your teeth! Many public places have hand sanitizer bottles here and there. Plus of course, you need to carry around your own mini-sanitizer bottle.
    I don’t like kissing and hugging people outside of close family. And often it’s someone you haven’t seen in months! Some kind of fake kiss is needed. If we could maybe just tilt our heads a little to the left then the right, to indicate a kiss, that would be plenty of welcoming for me.

  3. Wow. This is a pretty scary article! OCD much?

    a) Shake all the hands you want, kiss all the cheeks you want, grab all the rails you want….
    b) don’t rub your eyes or pick your nose
    c) wash your hands
    d) if you are stilll so paranoid, do what they do in Japan, touch elbows…

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