Bill Gates visited South Korea last week and not surprisingly met with a number of high-ranking members of the government, including new South Korean President Park Geun-hye. But all that was reported out of Gates’ visit in the media in Korea and the USA was Gates’ faux-pas in shaking hands with the President. He kept his left hand in his coat pocket, which was perceived as rude. He should have (as did Larry Page from Google later in the week) clasped the President’s hand with both of his as a sign of respect. According to the Korea Herald, “The topic [of the handshake] was so frequently discussed online that as of Tuesday morning, Bill Gates became one of the most searched keywords on Naver, the most visited web portal in South Korea.” Greeting gestures and etiquette can be tricky in unfamiliar cultures. The White House and the State Department have experts in that area who provide guidance, but apparently Bill Gates did not have access to that information.
It probably would come as little surprise to Americans that it would be Bill Gates involved in this social gaffe. After all, he is likely perceived as a member of a particular group: geeks. This is a group seen as socially inept, politically ignorant, and, on occasion, inappropriately arrogant. The latter characteristic, in fact, is what many perceived Gates as exhibiting when he appeared before Congress when Microsoft was being investigated for its monopoly stronghold on computer operating systems; Gates was dismissive of the Congressmen’s concerns and lectured them as if they were schoolchildren. Of course, these days, the geeks have their gotten their revenge and are laughing all the way to the bank.