Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Being Left-handed in Korea

Being left-handed in Korea is an interesting concept.  A survey of 2437 Koreans conducted last year found that 5.8% were left-handed, and 7.9% were ambidextrous.  It's a small percentage in an even smaller slice of society as a whole, with about 10% percent of people globally being left-handed.  I am the only one in my family that is a lefty, and pretty much my whole life it has been something that people comment on, for better or worse.

I have never had quite the reaction to being a lefty as I have here.  At school, upon starting a lesson with a new group of students, they marvel at how I write on the board:  "Teacher!  Left hand!  How?"  Then they try to imitate how I write, to much amusement on their part, and resulting in illegible class work.  I have only seen one or two students my whole time in Korea that were lefties, and for them, it wasn't something that they found interesting about themselves.  Left-handedness here seems almost like a social stigmata.

In Korean culture, you always give and accept items from others with either two hands or with your right hand braced by your left.  For me, I'm used to doing a lot with my right hand as most things are made with righties in mind.  I have no problems with giving or receiving things from friends, students, or shop owners.

The real fun comes when I have to write or sign something--a sales slip, for example.  The proprietor hands me the pen with right hand, as usual, and I accept with my right hand.  He or she will watch in amazement as I switch hands, sign, switch hands again, and hand back the pen.  Sometimes there's even a look of dumbstruck  awe, and a "와우!" (Wow!)  I kindly smile and take my purchases, leaving them to ponder more about the strange foreign girl than they would have before.

Lately though, I've taken to just being lazy with my signature and using my right hand for the sake of time and convenience.  And of course, this amuses all of my friends who know I'm left-handed.  What's a girl to do?


  1. I'm a lefty too! My coworkers think it's amazing I can use chopsticks. But I also see a lot of lefty students in my classes.

  2. I never realized how amazed by the concept Koreans were. Of course, I'm a right handed guy and not one of you dirty left handers :-p

  3. ahaha i'm left-handed too, and i go to an international school in korea.
    in all of my classes, there's only one guy that is left-handed other than me. most people i know don't find out that i'm left-handed until i tell them or do something that clearly shows it.
    they always go like, " OMG she's left-handed!" and i'm like "...yeah?"
    hahah. i've gotten into the habit of looking around in restaurants in korea to see who's left-handed.... almost no one is. O__O;

  4. I'm a lefty and am going to Korea this summer! This is really interesting! I'm glad its accepted there though, my friend from the phillipines was forced to be right handed when she was little because she was born a lefty.


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