Amid coronavirus, handshakes are out. What about hugs to greet someone?

A woman and man hugging. Credit: Pixabay.

LA County declared a public health emergency today with more confirmed cases of coronavirus in Southern California. You’re advised not to shake hands. Maybe you can fist bump, or just nod hello. 

What about a hug? The New York Times describes the “L.A hug” as tight, lingering, and sometimes still going on as a conversation begins. 

Assuming this LA hug is real -- for the sake of this story -- should we abandon it in this age of coronavirus (and #MeToo)?

We ask Elaine Swann, a local lifestyle and etiquette expert who founded the Swann School of Protocol

She says, “Until we hear that hugging is not appropriate, I would say continue to move forward in your daily lives, unless we start to get reports that there's some other way that people are contracting this virus.”

A tip she shares often: If you’re in an environment where you’re unsure if you should hug or not, if you have hesitation, then don’t do it. 

Honesty is important 

Swann says people often ask her how to properly do something without offending someone or hurting their feelings.

She responds, “A lot of times, people think etiquette has more to do with evading the truth or not really being forthcoming. And it is really the exact opposite. It is being respectful. It's being honest, and most certainly considerate of other people. But that honesty part is important. It's all about your tone, what you say, and how you say it.”

Ask for permission

Swann says we need to ask before invading someone’s personal space, and that applies to everything, from “may I give you a hug?” to “may I touch your [pregnant] belly?”

Dodging a kiss 

Sometimes people go in for a handshake and then pull you in for a kiss on the cheek. What do you do, especially if you don’t want a kiss?

“A social kiss is really not ‘your lips to that person's face.’ That's improper, regardless of pre-coronavirus and all the way across the board. So your lips should not be touching anyone's face, period. That's number one,” Swann says. 

She notes that you can use the handshake as a barrier to stop someone when they pull you in for a kiss -- so your hand is in between your body and their body.  

“You can just push it out further away from you, which would kind of stop them. And then gently place your opposite hand on their shoulder, so … it feels as though they're getting some physical touch from you, but really you're stopping them from coming in any closer,” she says.

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir