Here we are once more with the new series: Polish People. In a fascinating look at humans in their natural environment, our intrepid explorer Decoy has ventured into deepest darkest Kraków to an office building where they congregate in groups. This week, we will look at one of the most basic interactions between them – the handshake.
As a form of human communication, it is actually one of the stranger methods. Two people stick out part of their appendages and latch onto to one another and lever them up and down for 2-3 seconds. However, it is one that is used millions of times every day around the world. As Decoy went undercover in the corporate world, he aimed to bring years of experience with handshakes with him. His hands had been gripped and swung many times with Irish, German, British, French, Dutch and Belgian hands – but the peculiarities of Polish handshake habits were a new experience. Below are some preliminary findings.
To shake or not to shake
… that is the question. Decoy begins the working day early, and this allows him to be in the office before many other colleagues. As other workers in the office arrive, there are the “Dzien dobre’s” and “Cześć’s”. However, the question of shaking hands seems quite random. Some colleagues come and shake hands with anyone around, while others sit down directly after uttering a greeting of hello without any further engagement. And there are also those that shake hands with those nearest them but not the whole team. But when should a person shake hands with everyone you meet in the morning, or just those that you like?
The female of the species
While Decoy has noticed that the male of the species does take pride in a firm grip and powerful arm-swing in a handshake, there are not many possibilities to see how women fare. This appears to be a custom where guys will shake hands with most guys around, but while walking around the office offering palms forwards, they will almost deliberately skip offering their hands to women. Are they concerned that the woman would have a stronger grip than them? Or would they appear lesser in the eyes of their peers by offering to shake with a women? Either way, it’s a quirk of life here to see how this interaction doesn’t happen.
Foreigner fitting in
While interacting with Poles, Decoy has needed to go deep undercover. To meet the habits of Poles, he has taken on their habits as his own. This means that handshakes are applied in meeting anyone not seen for some time – even with other foreigners. Some strange looks have been applied when meeting other people such as those from Ireland and the UK, as he applies the new formed habit of hand-shaking. It’s resulted in some raised eyebrows and unasked questions saying “What are you doing? Are you Polish now?”
With much yet to learn, it seems Decoy will need to clock in for many more hours of undercover analysis. Handshakes may be one of the simplest of human interactions, and while he has mastered the physical methods, the underlying psychological approach to the grasp still requires further study.