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...

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