Although as a nation we are relaxed when meeting people, we still use a good handshake as a greeting. However, this may become a fading practice.
Yet recent research has shown that a European-style kiss could be safer for our health than the handshake, as it's actually more hygienic.
For no matter how clean one person keeps their hands, there is no guarantee that the person on the other end of the greeting maintains such stringent standards - and if you're going from one person to another, shaking hands with each, the propensity for germ spreading is enormous.
The London School of Hygiene's Professor Sally Bloomfield, who is also Chair of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, which carried out the research, said: "The hands are critical in the chain of infection as they transmit infections from surfaces to people and between people.
Experts carried out a detailed report of hand hygiene and said the fight against all types of infections, from colds and flu to stomach bugs and MRSA, begins at home.
"Shaking hands is the main form of physical contact with each other but you don't know what the other person has been touching before you greet them. People avoid kissing each other when they have a cold, but in fact they are more likely to pass on an infection by shaking someone's hand."
Cold and flu viruses can be spread via the hands so that family members become infected when they rub their nose or eyes.
The report details how germs that cause stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus can also circulate directly from person to person via our hands. Some people also carry MRSA or C.difficile without even knowing, which can be passed around via hand and other surfaces.
Professor Bloomfield said: "It's important to know that good hand hygiene can really reduce the risks. What is important is not just knowing that we need to wash our hands but knowing when to wash them."
Surfaces from which the hands become contaminated, such as food contact surfaces, door handles, tap handles, toilet seats and cleaning cloths also need regular cleaning.
According to co-researcher Carol O’Boyle of the School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, "Hand hygiene is just as important when we are outside the home - on public transport, in the office, in the supermarket, or in a restaurant.
Quite often it is not possible to wash our hands in these situations, but carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitiser means we can make our hands hygienic whenever and wherever the need arises."
No matter how clean one person keeps their hands, unfortunately there is just no guarantee that the person on the other end of the greeting maintains such stringent standards. And with flu and bugs like norovirus particularly rampant - a quick rinse under the tap is not enough.
However, the study has pointed out that good hygiene is about more than just washing our hands. Although the hands are the main superhighway for the spread of germs - as they are the “last line of defence”, surfaces from which the hands become contaminated, such as food contact surfaces, door handles, tap handles and toilet seats, all need to be targeted in the fight to prevent infections spreading.
So next time you say hello or good-bye, the best way to avoid spreading infections is to use the French air kiss (in french - La bise or le bisou; in english - mmwwaagghh, darling), which avoids contact altogether!
For instructions on how-to air kiss, goto: http://www.wikihow.com/Air-Kiss