- Thomson Reuters
President Donald Trump has spent the last 10 months meeting numerous world leaders, and he’s (almost) never shied away from greeting them with a handshake – often in over-the-top, awkward ways.
Trump, who reportedly is a huge germaphobe, once called handshakes “barbaric,” citing fears that handshakes could transmit the flu and a host of other diseases. But as president, shaking hands is unavoidable, and Trump has developed his own signature approach to it on the international stage.
Here are 12 of the most satisfyingly awkward handshakes Trump has exchanged with world leaders:
Trump just got back from the Philippines, where he attended the ASEAN summit with other regional leaders. Everyone on stage was instructed to do the “ASEAN-way” handshake, and apparently Trump, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had a bit of trouble with it at first.
Trump’s first handshake with a world leader after being elected was with none other than President Barack Obama. While the handshake itself was pretty normal, the lack of eye contact and the obvious tension between the two made for an awkward interaction.
Word spread quickly about Trump’s bizarrely long and domineering handshaking style soon after he took office. Here, Trump ensnared Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a marathon 19-second handshake.
Abe’s perplexed expression in the handshake’s aftermath spread online and on TV talks shows like wildfire.
In May, Trump did something similar when meeting President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan while on a trip to Saudi Arabia. Watch Trump’s arm as it flails emphatically throughout the lengthy handshake.
Pretty soon though, some leaders found ways to capitalize on Trump’s handshaking style. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made sure he was prepared for Trump’s push-and-pull rhythm.
- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Perhaps the most famous person to trump the president’s handshake was French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron was reportedly warned about Trump’s aggressive style before meeting him, and he was obviously prepared.
Trump seemed to try to let go about three quarters of the way through, but Macron didn’t let him. Pundits called attention to the French leader’s white knuckles, and the internet lit up with amusing reactions.
Macron thought he had won. But later that day, as the French president walked up to Trump and a group of other world leaders, he tried unsuccessfully to avoid shaking hands with Trump. He failed, and Trump got him back …
… again …
… and again.
This one was more hand-holding than handshake. Trump grabs Macron’s hand, shakes it, pats it, shakes it again, keeps holding it as Macron stumbles, then grabs Brigitte Macron’s hand as well, holds them both, and finally lets go after a long 30 seconds.
This one’s probably more on President Narendra Modi of India than Trump. Modi held onto Trump’s hand for way too long after going in for a handshake that turned into a hug.
- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
When Trump met Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, he found himself on the receiving end of a handshake rejection after the Polish first lady glossed over his attempt to shake her hand, and greeted Melania instead.
The handshake between President Duda and Trump was perfectly normal – however some speculated about whether his the Polish first lady’s apparent snub was a political move.
One of the most awkward of Trump’s handshakes was the handshake that wasn’t. In his first official interaction with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Merkel asks him for a handshake, but Trump either didn’t hear her or ignored her request.
Reportedly, before the Oval Office encounter, Trump and Merkel did shake hands earlier in the day at a joint press conference. They have shaken each other’s hands when greeting each other ever since.