Should a handshake be expected?

There has been some angst over an Iranian agricultural delegation in Wellington when they refused to shake the hands of Labour MP Jo Luxton.

Barry Soper:  Surely a handshake isn’t too much to ask

It should be a case of when in Wellington do as the Wellingtonian’s do, well in a political sense that seems to be the expectation.

So it was with great indignation that an Iranian agricultural delegation was greeted with when they refused to shake the hand of Labour MP Jo Luxton.

In retaliation her male colleagues refused to take the outstretched hands of the Iranians, they felt slighted on her behalf.

But should they have been?

We live in a country that respects many different religions and cultures and are usually tolerant, we’re a secular society after all.

In Iran men don’t usually shake the hand of a woman, unless the female proffers it and the man is willing to reciprocate.

In this case Luxton was warned off, just as the meeting was about to begin which she says made her feel uncomfortable.

Islam prohibits the non-essential touching and physical contact of a person of the opposite gender, except for their nearest and dearest, although in pubic they’re expected to keep pretty much to themselves.

But when they’re travelling to a western country, and particularly on what could be seen as a diplomatic mission, surely they could abide by the local culture.

We’re certainly expected to do that when we travel to their part of the world.

In Brunei a female colleague was once refused entry to one of the many Sultan’s opulent, golden palaces because her sleeves were too short.

When I went on a tour of Italy we were warned that uncovered shoulders in churches was disrespectful and if a female had bare shoulders they could be asked to leave.

So the point is, when they come here surely a handshake isn’t too much to ask, it’s not quite up there with a hongi.

I suspect there would be a few people handshaking, hongi-ing or hugging Donald Trump if he visited, and quite a few other international politicians.

I quite often don’t shake strangers’ hands if I don’t want to, and I’m not keen on hugging strangers (or even workmates where I think professionalism and prudence dictates a respect of personal space).

I think that personal contact should be an optional personal choice and not be demanded.

65 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  February 23, 2018

    I agree with Soper. When you visit a country you follow their customs. It shouldn’t be necessary to tell our women not to shake hands when that is a common courtesy for many women here (even if they’re usually a bit wishy-washy & if a bloke did it like that I’d tell him to do it again, properly!) 😉

    I’d also like to repeat my question to Possum in Media Watch:

    “Possum – out of interest, what would your hapu iwi expect if the Iranian delegation visited your marae? Would they expect them to follow the powhiri kawa, & hongi with nga wahine?”

    • “When you visit a country you follow their customs.”

      To an extent – at least on abstaining from doing offensive things. No one should be forced to do things they are uncomfortable with.

      • Sunny

         /  February 23, 2018

        True. But if you don’t want to shake hands because of your customs or you are a germaphobe, then it is extremely rude to shake everyones hand except one person because of some arbitrary racist or sexist rules. Especially in a business setting where the women deserve the same respect as the men and not to do so is disempowering and calls attention to their gender. If you don’t want to shake hands, then do a small nod to everyone and don’t shake anyones hand.

        • It’s usually quite easy, both parties usually suss out an appropriate form of greeting quite quickly, and if one is obviously reluctant the other usually respects that, or doesn’t care.

    • There are similar exclusionist, extremely exclusive misogynist mandates dressed up as a duty of care within Maori protocol.

      I’m over it all, but know that international diplomacy trumps all

      #metoo

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  February 23, 2018

        The handshake is considered very intimate by some Muslims, so totally inappropriate between strangers. It is also considered to be totally inappropriate by Orthodox Jews..

        This whole thing has been blown out of all proportion. So it’s not considered proper for a man to clasp the hand of a woman in some cultures ? Big deal. It makes the people who are making the fuss seem very ignorant.

        • Corky

           /  February 23, 2018

          ”This whole thing has been blown out of all proportion.”

          Look up the word ”extrapolate.” Then do some forward thinking. I had to use that phrase instead of ”use your imagination.”

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  February 23, 2018

            I know what the word means, I don’t need to look it up. I suspect that you have no idea of its meaning. Do grow up and stop these childish attempts at point-scoring, You are way out of your depth and look more and more foolish with every witless attempt to sound clever.

      • Gezza

         /  February 23, 2018

        “And finally, asked if women were discriminated against by marae protocol, Auckland University’s Professor Dr Margaret Mutu sighed down the phone.

        “You are the millionth reporter who has asked me this in the past 30 years,” she said, “And I tell them all the same thing. The role of men and women on a marae is complementary.

        “The women’s role is to clear the way for the visitors coming onto the marae, and only the woman have the power to do that. Once the woman have cleared the way spiritually it is handed over to the men, and the men do the formal speaking.

        “It’s nothing to do with women’s rights and whatever, that comes out of Pākeha ways of thinking. And women speak on the marae, inside, all the time. Women hold the fort there.”

        It would be great if there were more cultural understanding, Mutu said. “If every New Zealander was comfortable on a marae, they would not be talking the way they do.””

        We’re a bicultural country, trav. There’s a predominantly European Culture & predominantly Maori culture. I happily accept them both as the way we are.

  2. Gezza

     /  February 23, 2018

    I suspect there would be a few people handshaking, hongi-ing or hugging Donald Trump if he visited…

    Can’t see Kitty doing that, tbh. Knee in the groin, maybe? 🤔

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 23, 2018

      No, Gezza, I wouldn’t do anything so vulgar and unladylike. I might fart in his eye, but that’s all.

    • duperez

       /  February 23, 2018

      What is just as astonishing is expecting New Zealanders to respect the customs of others while expecting them to not respect ours. I presume we let the Iranian delegation drive on the right-hand side of the road.

    • Corky

       /  February 23, 2018

      Grandstanding? No doubt a little of that. But will liberals learn from this cultural exchange? Away from their cosy world of diversity, the world operates in a different way. Ironically when
      these liberals had their diversity beliefs challenged, they became very conservative and patriotic.

      For me, again the arrogance and ignorance of Islam was on display. They are incapable of accepting other religious and cultural practices.

      Islam and Muslims should be banned from our shores. Sadly this country is full of Hamish Prices.

      • I have Christian Indian friends. Their son recently went to India to meet a woman for the first time and marry her two days later. A substantial dowry was paid, ( to take her off their hands!), well I can only assume so, considering millions of girls are aborted annually and a dowry never works the other way.

        No matter his you cut it, women are second class citizens in many countries. We accept the very common practice of thousands of brides fetched from India annually to become citizens, which would seem a flagrant breach of immigration rules, so why would we care about a hand shake?

        #metoo

        • Blazer

           /  February 23, 2018

          is their son a Christian?Apparantly those arranged marriages have a wonderful ..success rate.A lot of thought re compatibility is put into it.

          • Gezza

             /  February 23, 2018

            Yes, this is true in my experience. The parents often make a better job of choosing the right spouse than lovestruck youngsters do. And the couples these days get to meet either here or in India & only go through with the wedding if they like each other.

            • Gezza

               /  February 23, 2018

              Mind you, I worked for a year with a young, very classically attractive, Kiwi born law graduate, decidedly single very smart, & career focussed, who decided to accompany her parents back to India to attend a distant cousin’s wedding.

              Turned up back in the office two weeks later sporting a wedding ring, to everyone’s surprise, including her own! She said the aunties over there sprang into action immediately they saw her & she wound up agreeing to & marrying a very handsome, younger, tenant farmer who spoke no English at all.

              She left for a more lucrative job at a law firm just a couple of months later. I’ve sometimes wondered how that one turned out!

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 23, 2018

      Hamish Price is a dickhead. The issue is gender-selective handshaking in a formal setting. We neither do nor accept that here. If you don’t like it, F.O.

  3. Blazer

     /  February 23, 2018

    When Murray was in Saudi Arabia,he went to shake hands with a man,and was surprised to see he didn’t..have one!

  4. alloytoo

     /  February 23, 2018

    I confess to some amusement here.

    I don’t subscribe to Islamic appeasement in our own country, if they want to snub our customs then they deserve a snub in return. Appeasement, however you wrap it as pragmatism does not work. It, in essence, advertises our lack of faith and conviction in our own position and values.

    What’s amusing is that it’s a left wing government which finally grew some gonads in this regard.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 23, 2018

      It’s a bloody handshake. People are making it into a big issue when it should not be one.

      It’s not appeasement, it’s just courtesy.

  5. Chuck Bird

     /  February 23, 2018

    Pete, you say you often do not shake hands with someone if you do not want to. Does not mean someone offers their hand and you just stand there with you hands at your side?

  6. Gezza

     /  February 23, 2018

    Well watch out for Sir Alan. He’s a hugger!

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 23, 2018

      I doubt I’d be hugging that delegation, Sir Gerald.

  7. Put women in the greeting party at the Airport at the foot of the gangway.
    No handshake with the women shove the islamists back up the stairs and clear them for immediate takeoff and clearance through our airspace.
    Ban the burkes and the burkas

  8. david in aus

     /  February 23, 2018

    I wonder if we are a bit too precious at times. Yes, when in Rome doing what the Romans do, is a good practice; but there must be an element of common sense.
    If the custom of a visitor is not to shake hands between the sexes, I would understand. I really don’t want to kiss the cheeks of other males, when I visit a foreign country because it is their custom, nor am I offended if people do not look into my eyes because it is a sign of disrespect in other cultures.

    People are oversensitive about the ‘Muslim” issue and are not looking at cultural differences in context.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  February 23, 2018

      “not looking at cultural differences in context”: the context was NZ. We don’t allow gender discrimination. Shake all or none was the correct response.

      • david in aus

         /  February 23, 2018

        Have we become the cultural Taliban? Live let live, man.

        If they are disrespectful that is a different matter, but let us not quibble about minor issues.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  February 23, 2018

        Is it a minor issue to allow your delegation leader to be discriminated against?

        • david in aus

           /  February 23, 2018

          If they refuse to take our female representative seriously that is an issue, but not a handshake. If someone said: I am germaphobe, my wife will kill me or I might get girl germs if I shake your hand, I would nod understandingly and think what I a weirdo. But who I am I to judge.

          • david in aus

             /  February 23, 2018

            Hi Pete, do you have a cancel comments option? I am noticing too many grammatical errors.

    • adamsmith1922

       /  February 23, 2018

      at last a rational human being

  9. david in aus

     /  February 23, 2018

    I am surprised it is a left-wing government is murmuring about the hand-shake ‘spat’.
    When two left-wing values collide: not being seen as racist or standing against sexism, they usually keep quiet. A true moral dilemma.

  10. David

     /  February 23, 2018

    Grandstanding lefties doing there thing as usual, the quite amazing difference is they are calling out islam which is very unusual.

  11. Alan Wilkinson

     /  February 23, 2018

    I see Judith Collins waded into this turning her crusher onto the Iranians:
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/101696874/judith-collins-womens-rights-trump-cultural-customs-in-nz

    • David

       /  February 23, 2018

      The comments are quite amusing with many expressing surprise that they agree with Judith Collins and she was spot on the mark.

      • robertguyton

         /  February 23, 2018

        Collins is trying to hog the lime-light. Only fools would be taken in.

        • David

           /  February 23, 2018

          Good to get that cleared up Guyton, according to the left if a conservative woman stands up for womens rights its window dressing and if a leftie woman does it she is standing up for the sisterhood. You are such a sexist condescending bigot you should really have a sensitivity lesson you old dinosaur.
          Womens rights are womens rights regardless of ones politics.

    • adamsmith1922

       /  February 23, 2018

      This was Collins pandering to many Kiwis xenophobia

      • Blazer

         /  February 23, 2018

        a fine one to talk….a man with an…’invisible hand’!

        • robertguyton

           /  February 23, 2018

          I’m reminded of Key’s “three-way”.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  February 23, 2018

            It’s nobody’s right to shake hands with a stranger. The whole thing has become ridiculous and makes NZ look ridiculous, not to mention parochial.

            • robertguyton

               /  February 23, 2018

              It’s okay to offer your hand, surely???

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 23, 2018

              It’s not a right, it’s a custom. I didn’t say that it wasn’t all right, In some cultures, hand holding between strangers of different sexes is not done.

            • David

               /  February 23, 2018

              Well if you shake a mans hand here you should shake a womens hand too, if you cant manage that buggar off back to the stone age because here in NZ women achieve and are respected as much as men and if you cant shake a womans hand without getting a hard on perhaps you should stay back under your rock in the middle ages.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 24, 2018

              Do you believe that women should be able to say No to unwanted physical contact ? Or should they be obliged to submit to it ?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  February 24, 2018

              Don’t be deliberately obtuse. It has nothing to do with being turned on sexually and I wonder what sort of person would think that that was the reason.You must have a disgustingly filthy mind to reduce it to that level. It is a different sort of respect, that’s all. Touching someone of the opposite sex is just not done in some cultures. Some Muslim women would not shake hands with men.

              Under a rock in the Middle Ages ? What a mixed metaphor.

              Why can’t you see that physical contact between the sexes is not appropriate in some cultures (unless the people are related, of course) and stop being so narrow-minded, insular and ignorant ?

  12. PartisanZ

     /  February 23, 2018

    What’s the common practice with Chinese delegations, does anyone know?

    I wonder if we apply the same ‘principles’ to our BIG trading partners?

    • David

       /  February 23, 2018

      They shake hands and treat women as equals, have you ever met a Chinese woman, been to China or actually got out from in front of your computer.

  13. Zedd

     /  February 23, 2018

    There is an old saying ‘When in Rome (or NZ) do as the Romans (or kiwis) do..” BUT there are other ‘cultural norms’ in other societies.. eg Islamic Republic of Iran (no longer called Persia)

    • David

       /  February 23, 2018

      So you would have Ardern wear a headscarf in the middle east but a despicably sexist islamist disrespect a successful empowered women in a free society ?

  14. David

     /  February 23, 2018

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/life/101724829/womens-rights-or-cultural-customs-its-not-black-and-white

    And here we have the ultra femenist writing for Stuff finds herself in agreement with NZs strongest woman Judith Collins so she contorts herself to find a position that is supportive of the most sexist/mysoginist outfit on earth. Would the journo leap to the defence of the religious beliefs of Brian Tamaki…No of course not and that is why the leftist identity politics will blow up in their faces and is starting to in the US.

    • Blazer

       /  February 23, 2018

      ‘with NZs strongest woman Judith Collins’…well if she misses out on the leadership…she could join a…circus.

  15. phantom snowflake

     /  February 23, 2018

    I’ve never seen so much faux outrage in one thread! So many Rabid Righties discarding their usual casual sexism/misogyny to become overnight Feminists. All for the higher purpose of disparaging Islam. Certainly answers the question of “Who do you hate more, Muslims or Feminists?” Comedy gold!

  16. Gezza

     /  February 23, 2018

    Labour MP Jo Luxton was asked not to shake the hands of visiting male Iranian counterparts. Outrage over the request has prompted the Iranian Embassy to issue a statement explaining the cultural request was not a directive, and it was one born out of respect.

    The Iranian Embassy has spoken out about an incident where a Labour MP was reportedly told not to shake the hands of visiting male Iranian counterparts.

    The embassy has hit back, saying the cultural practice was out of respect for women.

    In a statement, a spokesperson for the Iranian Embassy said no direction was given, however a request was made and they thanked Labour MP Jo Luxton for honouring it.

    Get the who, what, why of NZ politics in our newsletter
    The statement comes in response to media reports that Luxton was prevented from shaking the hands a male agricultural delegation visiting Parliament on Thursday.

    Luxton is the deputy chair of the primary production select committee. Labour MP Kieran McAnulty said Luxton was approached ahead of the meeting and advised not to shake hands with the men. She was told it was not appropriate.

    The Iranian embassy called the incident a “marginal issue”, but offered a clarification.

    “There was no instruction given to the Labour MP Her Excellency Jo Luxton in order not to shake hands with the Iranian counterparts, but it was a request and the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran would like to express its gratitude to Her Excellency in respecting the Iranian guests and not rejecting the request in accordance with her understanding of cultural differences.

    No physical contact among men and women (except immediate family members) is rooted in the religious culture of Iran and it should not be considered as a matter of disrespect to women, while it is a sign of respect to them,” the statement read.

    “Women have a high social dignity in Iran. They have had seats in all Iranian Parliaments. In the current Parliament of Iran, 8 out of 30 MPs of Tehran are women. Also, more than 53 per cent of total 4.3 million university students in Iran are women.

    “We hope that the public opinion of New Zealand has a clear understanding of the matter.”

    McAnulty – a freshman MP – had tweeted his outrage on Thursday, but those tweets had since been deleted.

    His first read: “I was appalled to witness my friend & colleague @joluxx be advised not to approach & shake hands with an Iranian delegation meeting with us today.”

    Which he followed up by saying: “I refused to shake their hands in support of Jo. It’s unacceptable that such an instruction can be made of any woman in this country.”

    Parliament’s only Iranian born refugee, Green Party MP Golriz Gharahman, has also spoken out about the practice, saying it was not a sign of disrespect.

    In an opinion piece for Newshub, Gharahman said the rule was comparable to the requirements of women to wear a hijab.

    “This means that while the Quran calls on women to dress modestly (often interpreted as covering their hair), it imposes a converse obligation on Islamic men not to ogle women and not to touch them in any way unless they are married or immediate blood relations.

    “This is to provide safety and respect for women interacting with men,” she said.

    “Whether or not we agree with these rules, whether they are paternalistic or unduly restrictive and need ‘modernising’, is a question for practising Muslims. It is not open to those of us outside that culture to interpret these rules beyond their intent in Islam.”
    … … …
    It’s bollocks, Islam. It’s bloody mediaeval nonsense & discriminates against indoctrinated women. Find out what happens to women in their prisons or who breach the dress code in areas outside of Teheran.

  17. K J Aldous

     /  March 8, 2018

    Green MP Golriz Ghahraman maintains that “an Iranian agricultural delegation’s refusal to shake hands with a female Labour MP was not disrespectful.”

    But in New Zealand a handshake is sign of goodwill and respect, at least among civil society. How can a visitor’s refusal to accept a proffered hand not to be anything but disrespectful and offensive?

    • How about a proffered nose, KJ Aldous? The hongi is a sign of goodwill and respect in New Zealand – would it be “disrespectful and offensive” for someone from a culture that avoids close facial contact between strangers, to avoid a hongi?

  18. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 8, 2018

    Auckland Uni fires lecturer for trying to handshake:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12008754