The right hand has long been the dominate hand, spanning time and cultures. And because populations of left-handed people are relatively stable at 10% globally, it’s not surprising that right-handedness has been the default classification among humankind. It can represent anything from power, rational, conscious and logical thought, depending on the culture.
Now, since most of us are right-handed, we don’t even think about how we use it so much more: we shake hands on the right, we pass food with the right, we gesture with the right. Even lefties are so inculcated into the cult of the right hand that they also shake hands on the right – it’s just how it’s done.
And so maybe you want to bust of out of that mold and start using your left hand willy-nilly. Just be careful; in some cultures, the right v left hand debate is more than just a curiosity. It gets downright intense.
5. Pass the food to the right
Okay, so you’re sitting at family dinner and passing around serving plates. Have you noticed that the motion is usually counter clockwise? This is actual set-down etiquette in Western cultures, put in place so as not to disrupt the flow of plates being passed. It’s interesting that this is a common practice because someone, a long time ago, determined that passing to the right was better than passing to the left.
4. Passing food or objects in India
There is a distinct difference on right hand versus left-hand usage in India. Rough Guides explains:
“Rule one eat with your right hand only. In India, the left hand is for wiping your bottom, cleaning your feet and other unsavoury functions (you also put on and take off your shoes with your left hand), while the right hand is for eating, shaking hands and so on.”
It would be an insult to offer something to someone with your left hand and most likely that person will not take it.
3. Dining in Ethiopia
Ethiopians typically eat with their hands, forgoing any plates. Often you would share a large dish with friends, which is why eating with only your right hand is so important.
Remember how in India the left is used for unsavory functions? Same with this culture. So when you use only one hand (the right one) to dip pieces of injera into the communal bowl, you are reducing the risk of contamination.
2. Shaking hands
You guessed it! Shaking hands with your right hand is a rite! Have you ever come across someone that shakes with their left? It’s awkward! In many cultures, including America, left-hand shakes are considered an insult and refer to insincere promises.
1. Sign Language
Okay, this doesn’t exactly have strict rules over which hand to use. But the key to signing is to stick with your dominant hand. Which for most of the world is the right. Sorry, lefties.
Jon Miller from Signing Saavy says:
“When signing, it does not matter if you sign as left-hand or right-hand dominant. The biggest thing to remember is to pick which hand you want to use as the dominant hand and stick with it. You should not switch back and forth between dominant hands. Most signers will be able to understand your signs no matter which hand you use as the dominant hand.”
There you have it! When in doubt, go for the right.