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Swine Flu Upsets Rituals of Greeting

When it comes to avoiding the transmission of swine flu — without awkwardness or rudeness — perhaps the Samoans are best prepared.

“In Samoa, people do not touch when they greet each other,” the linguistic anthropologist Alessandro Duranti says.

There is, of course, a catch: “When people whom they respect highly come into a house, they sit down across from you, and there is an elaborate ceremonial greeting: mentioning each person’s titles and social connections, one at a time, usually for an extended period.”

For those outside Samoa, the era of swine flu poses the thorny challenge of how to express cordiality, friendship, even love — while staying, as the authorities recommend, at least three to five feet away from anyone who coughs, sneezes or might otherwise show signs of infection with the H1N1 virus.

Comments (1)

  1. Unfortunately, the 'Palagi' handshake is also recognized in this culture and I've commonly seen it used as a greeting formality with outsiders.

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