The Trump-shake: A look at Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe’s awkward handshake
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The Trump-shake: A look at Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe’s awkward handshake

DONALD Trump has made it known before that he doesn’t enjoy handshakes.

In his own words, he has called the act a “barbaric” one that puts both giver and receiver at risk of contracting some kind of medical ailment.

“Shaking hands, you catch colds, you catch the flu, you catch this. You catch all sorts of things. Who knows what you don’t catch,” he once said in 1999.

Unfortunately for the U.S. germaphobe-in-chief, handshakes are a must. His predecessor Barack Obama once joked about it, saying the best advice he’d received from George W. Bush was to always use a hand sanitizer. In fact, a New Yorker article in 2013 claimed a U.S. president shakes hands with at least 65,000 people a year.

That’s a lot of hands.

And plenty of awkwardness for Trump, who, it seems, has a penchant for stretching out the human ritual unnecessarily and turning it into meme-worthy moments.

Take his handshake with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last Friday for example.

Lasting a full 19 seconds, the handshake also saw Trump pat the back of Abe’s hand a total of six times as well as yank him closer to ask for an interpretation of requests from Japanese-speaking photographers snapping shots of the moment.

From videos, it looked like it was Abe who initiated the handshake when he asked: “Shall we shake hands?” The men were seated for a photo-op at the White House just before they flew to Florida for a round of golf diplomacy at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort.

A smiling Trump graciously extended his hand immediately and the moment started well enough until the president launched into his usual tug-and-twist style.

“What are they saying?” he asked as he not-so-subtly pulled Abe toward him, referring to the photographers.

“Please look at me,” Abe answered as he translated the request for his U.S. counterpart.

Trump clearly misunderstood and kept his smiling gaze at Abe after, probably thinking that the Japanese leader had meant for him to do so.

Abe, with his free hand, tried to correct Trump by gesturing at the photographers.

When it was over, Abe looked up and away to his right almost as though to express relief that the 19-second ordeal was over. Trump, on the other hand, gave a double thumbs-up to the cameras and said, “strong hands”. It’s not known if he meant the remark for Abe or himself, but it was enough to spark quite an Internet storm.

Social media platforms immediately lit up with shared clips of the moment, with some zooming in on Abe’s post-handshake expression, capturing him just as his eyes darted upward as though he was rolling them.

Numerous news outlets wrote dedicated stories on it. Some dredged up clips of Trump’s past handshakes while others discussed those of other world leaders and drew comparisons. even called in a body language expert.

According to Joe Navarro, an expert from Florida and the author of the book What Everybody is Saying, covering a person’s hand is typically done for perception management.

“You’re portraying yourself as being closer than you really are. The only time you should be tapping somebody’s hands is if you’re their grandmother, but certainly not between two grown adults,” he was quoted saying.

Doing so only makes a person feel uncomfortable, he added.

“Because the back of your hand is your intimate zone. You are entitled to touch the palm of their hand when you shake hands, but not the intimate zone.”

But the Trump-shake doesn’t just include the intimate hand pat. As witnessed during Abe and many other handshakes past, the leader’s signature move is to pull and twist, sometimes turning the simple act into a painful-looking tug-of-war.

It’s like playing “jiujitsu with your hand”, Navarro told Quartz. “All that it does is that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth and causes psychological discomfort.”

“Frankly, it’s rude.”

Whether rude, awkward or just plain funny, this is just one of the 65,000 estimated Trumpshakes the world will be seeing this year.