If you are travelling to Asian countries, like Japan, that use chopsticks to eat their food – you will probably want to learn how to use chopsticks, in order to experience the true cultural way to eat your meals.
Not only that, it’s a mark of respect to know how to use chopsticks correctly, much in the way you are expected to use a knife and fork correctly in a Western restaurant.
However, this skill is very difficult to master – and if you are left handed, this can be even more difficult. So, how do you do it?
This guide will explain the best way to use chopsticks left handed along with other handy pieces of information you might need to know.
Read on for more!
Using Chopsticks As A Leftie
The first thing you will need to do before you can use chopsticks is prepare yourself ready for the task ahead. You will have to manoeuvre the chopsticks, so you first have to work out an anchor.
Place the first chopstick between your middle finger and your thumb’s base. This now acts as your anchor and will not move as you are eating.
To give yourself a firmer grip, try to make your hand as stiff as you can. Now, the broader end of the chopstick needs to lay in your hand’s crook.
This is the area where your thumb and the side of your index finger meet and is pretty solid. Imagine holding a pen but lower down your hand and you have the basic idea.
There is a slight alternative to this method though as some people prefer a more formal use of chopsticks and a little more “room” for movement.
They will have the chopsticks sit on the side of their ring finger with the tip holding the chopsticks stable.
Next, the second chopstick has to be picked up using your thumb and index finger – remember, this is the chopstick that will move.
Put your thumb over the side of the chopstick so that it is resting on above the first one. If you need to, adjust your grip so you have more stability and comfort.
Ensure that the narrow points of the chopsticks are even so that you can use them correctly. If they are uneven, you can use the table to align them properly – if you do not, using the chopsticks will be pretty much impossible.
Before you go for your food, do a “test” by opening and closing the chopsticks in your hand. If it’s all going well, great!
You want to avoid the chopsticks crossing one another, so if this is happening, you’ll need to revisit the previous steps.
Once you are ready to go for the food, (see also ‘How to Eat Natto‘) go at it at around a 45 degree angle. If this is your first time, try picking up more solid foods, rather than things like rice. Once you have had some experience with chopsticks, it will be like second nature.
Much as Western culture has table etiquette including the correct use of knives, forks and spoons – Eastern culture has chopsticks etiquette.
Here are some very important things to remember when it comes to using chopsticks.
Sharing Your Food
There may come a time if you’re travelling that you’re sat on a table with lots of communal dishes. The thing to remember here is that you cannot just dive in and pick up communal food with chopsticks that have been in your mouth.
Not only is this unhygienic and unsightly for your guests, but it’s very bad manners. Instead, you can either:
- Use a communal or “table” set of chopsticks which are used only for sharing food items and never touch mouths
- Use the other side of your chopsticks that have not touched your mouth. Whilst this also isn’t ideal, it is much preferred than the alternative!
Chopsticks When You’re Not Eating
There will also come a time during your meal when you will not be eating. You’ll likely at this point be wondering what you’re meant to do with these chopsticks.
Of course, Western culture would dictate placing your cutlery together onto a plate at the front – but this is completely different when it comes to chopsticks.
There will be variations of chopstick etiquette when you’re not eating depending on which country you are in, e.g. Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam etc.
However, there are these rules to remember for most of the countries:
- Chopsticks should never be left upright in food. This is similar to how incense is prepared at funerals and is considered a bad sign – and in many ways is disrespectful.
- Do not use your chopsticks to pass food from your plate (see also ‘How to do Kintsugi‘) to someone else’s, as described in the previous point.
- Do not use your chopsticks to point at people. This is viewed as disrespectful, as pointing in general is looked down upon – but using chopsticks in this way is even worse.
- Never cross your chopsticks if you are done.
- Do not spear your food using your chopsticks.
If you are finished with your meal, what you should do is place the chopsticks neatly on the left hand side of your dish – easy to remember as a left handed person!
Don’t Fear The Rice Dish
Many people worry about eating rice dishes if they are inexperienced with the use of chopsticks, especially if they are around seasoned veterans.
However, you should know that you do not need to worry about this. It is perfectly acceptable to move the rice bowl closer to your mouth if you are eating a rice dish with chopsticks (see also ‘How To Eat With Chopsticks‘).
Whilst eating this way may take longer than you normally would expect, you will be seen as a person who knows what they’re doing!
And that’s all you need to know about how to use chopsticks as a leftie! Hope this guide helped!