November 28, 2005

Table Manners for Lefties

A Reader wrote:

Do you use your knife and fork like a lefty or a righty? My dad is a lefty and my mum a righty. Neither considered this to be any kind of abnormality or disadvantage so I was encouraged to use my left hand except at the dinner table. I was taught that I was to use a knife in my right hand and a fork in my left simply because this was the correct way to use them. I never had any drama about this as it was put to me in a way that suggested it was just as incorrect to swap as it would be to chew with my mouth open or wipe my mouth on the table cloth. However, they weren't as strict about the spoon and so I used a spoon in my left hand even though it is considered in polite circles correct to use the right (and in the interest of being considered to be "polite company" I have taught myself to use a spoon in the right hand with no difficulty).

I can see merit in this. For instance when I eat out with a group of right handers I don't have the problem of bumping my neighbour which would annoy me as much as it would annoy them. I also don't feel the need to rearrange the cutlery as soon as I sit at a dining table.

I can also see it from the point of view of restrauteurs. Despite the fact that there is an increasing number of lefties in our society we are still the minority. A restaurant could not know whether any diners are left handed so it makes sense to set the table for right handers. It also makes sense, in my opinion, for left handers to conform in this one area as it just makes life easier for everyone - lefties included. To be honest if I'd been allowed to use cutlery as my natural inclination would have been I'd be one unhappy camper by now. I would be so fed up with having to rearrange cutlery and bumping the person next to me, and them bumping me, I would dread eating in any kind of company.

My point is that if I had left handed children this is one area where I would teach them to use their right hand in preference as I thank my parents for teaching me this one thing on which they insisted I swap.

What do others think?


  1. This seems to be an American problem, not a left-handed one. In Europe, it is typical for people to use the fork with the left hand, rather than switching between knife and fork in the right hand. I can eat either way.

  2. I too am left handed...

    I am able to use both of my hands for almost anything, though I consider myself left handed for the simple fact that my left handed writing is twice as neat as my right handed writing.

    Eating is a difficulty for me at anytime. Most right handed people, I find are different than what you say with using their left hand for fork and right for knife. I see them using the opposite. I can do either, except with a knife. I guess I am just not as precise with my right hand.

    I think that the world just needs to get their rules down and make it a law or something (I know, too extreme) because the world is having an insane battle of hands.

  3. I have difficulty switching my eating habits right handed. I feel like I am going to drop the food from my spoon. I normally donĂ¢€™t have trouble bumping elbows with people

    1) Because I have a high number of left handed friends (everyone but 2 people I work with is left handed)
    2) I make sure to sit at the left end of the table
    3) I ignore polite company :P

  4. I must disagree with you on raising your children as you were and forcing them to go against their natural "way of things", if you will, by using their left hands for eating. I too am the only southpaw in my family. I know maybe 4 other people who are left-handed as well. As a result, mosst of my eating is done with right-handed people. Everyone I dine with is mindful of the fact that I am a lefty, as I am that they are not. I usually sit at the spot at the table that will avoid elbow bumping. If that is not possible, I am mindful of my personal space, as is the person I am sitting next to, and it just works out.

    I believe you can teach your children the proper and polite ways of table manners without denying them the right to use their prominent hand. You would not do this for a child who uses their right hand, why consider doing it for a lefty? The same manners can be taught and exhibited by a child who is either right-handed or left-handed.

  5. If I ever have dinner with someone who actually cares which hand my fork is in, please shoot me.

  6. I just get to dinner early and pick my end of the table.

  7. My parents felt it was of utmost importance for each of their children to have proper manners at the table. I thank them now, because when I look around at others' table habits, I just smile politely to myself. I was lucky enough to have one left-handed son, and, I, too felt it was important for him to learn how most Americans eat at the table. I taught him to eat the "American way", but he felt more comfortable adopting the "Continental way". I now see why he was so uncomfortable learning it the right-handed way, since he does almost everything with his left hand. YAY for South Paws! They are usually very intelligent as well!

  8. just sit so your left side has a little more open space (like at a corner of the table) or learn to live with it, it's really not a big deal, anyone who can't handle that can take a flying leap...

  9. I'm a lefty like my mother too.

    "insane battle of hands" - LEXIFICA
    nice one lexifica

    "I feel like I am going to drop the food from my spoon." - KAT
    and I've splattered my food all over the table when I use that "polite company" thing.
    apparently my right hand is quite weak and things kept flying/slipping from it.

    "I just get to dinner early and pick my end of the table." - ADEN
    exactly or I will usually sit alone (as in going out with odd number of people)

  10. "Wow" I'm left handed. I have never had too much trouble with what utinsil to use, and just sort of switched hands. I do tend to eat using the European style, and the highest praise came from my mother in law I guess I passed. I find the elbows in approach tends to help when in tight quarters,but with good conversation and a group of close friends, most just don't watch that closely. I think. Thanks.


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