Nieuws - 29 april 2010



I was really glad to begin my PhD in the Netherlands and, as is typical in my country, every time I met one of my supervisors I would shake their hand.
After one handshake too many, my supervisor politely informed me that there was no need to shake his hand as I had already done it the first time I met him.

I have to confess this was very perplexing to me as I come from a country where it is a sign of the utmost rudeness not to shake hands when you meet people. You shake hands every time you meet someone for the first time that day.
Apparently, in Dutch culture handshakes are reserved for very special occasions, like the first meeting and birthdays. I still don't know whether this has to do with hygiene, a love of personal space or a feeling that handshakes are very special events.
I come from Kenya, where handshakes are not only common, but mandatory to maintain good relationships. You shake hands when you meet someone, at the beginning and end of a meeting, to say both hello and goodbye. In fact the kind of handshake you give says a lot about you. When you are really glad to meet a friend you give a big handshake. This is carried out by first raising your hand as far as possible and then bringing the two hands together with a loud clap. When you have small hands like mine this can be painful, but you receive it graciously. If you are really special to someone, they don't let go of your hand during the whole conversation. 
After three years in the Netherlands, whenever I travel home I'm always thinking: 'I'm really glad to meet you again, but can I please have my hand back?'/Virginia Gitonga, PhD Plant Breeding