West Germany: Hands Down

The ritual begins with a swift mutual thrust of converging palms, which grasp each other in a crushing grip and pump each other up and down like a frantic seesaw. It is accompanied by a snappy bowing of the head—almost as if to show that the participants have not paralyzed each other. It is, of course, the German handshake, a social act of such importance and frequency that it sometimes seems to dominate German life. More than any other people, the Germans firmly believe that a man's handshake shows his character, and they go through life grasping at hands...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!