I am a westerner. There are no cultural issues related to the use of the right or left hand. You have two hands, why not use them both? India is like the Middle East, with its right hand/left hand rules. The left hand is the one that you clean yourself with after a bowel movement, so you use the right hand for everything else. Now I’m not really sure why the strict adherence to this rule is necessary when the “carefully use toilet paper and wash your hands thoroughly after each bathroom visit” rule makes it moot, but I am the foreigner here and I don’t think that it is my place to buck the norm.
This is where the fun comes in.
Things that you should NOT do with your left hand include:
- Eating. In restaurants, people will lay their left hands in their laps and eat with their right hands only. It is almost as if everyone is suddenly an amputee.
- Giving things to people. Never hand something to someone with your left hand. To do so is an insult. This includes money when you are paying for something.
Things that I do every single time with my left hand include:
- Eating. I can’t tell you how often I’ve caught myself popping something into my mouth with my left hand. There seems to be a trick to tearing chapatti bread one handedly. I’ve yet to mater it and have to use two hands. Indians, ever gracious, pretend not to notice my barbarity.
- Paying for things. I habitually hold my wallet with my right hand, fish through it with my left and hand the money over with the same. When I’m aware of what I’m doing, I hold my wallet with my left and do the fishing and giving with my right. I’m aware about 10% of the time. The rest of the time, I realize it just AFTER I handed the money to the rickshaw driver/waiter with my left. This is then followed by my profusely apologizing that I meant no offense and simple forgot the rule here. Indians, ever gracious, simply smile and to that head wobble thing.
I do wonder what they think as they drive away.