Monday, April 10, 2006

Understanding Arabs: the use of the Inappropriate Hand

In most Arab countries and/or countries influenced by Arab traditions, the left hand is considered "unclean" and is not to play a part in social settings at all. The left hand is for private duty only. Do not make a fool of yourself and commit a major cultural faux pas by putting your left hand forward to receive or give anything, be conscious of the left hand’s role in dealing with Arabs. The left hand is taboo. Your left hand remains in your lap while dining. If you forget this rule of engagement and serve yourself with your left hand or grab a roll from a public plate, the other guests will be disgusted at your lack of manners and the plate of food will be removed immediately and be thrown out. It is customary to eat, shake hands, and wave only with the right hand.

Even today, it is considered extremely impolite and offensive to offer the left hand for a handshake or even to wave hello or good-bye with your left hand. This rigid belief or social standard is biased against the estimated 10% of Lefty’s or Southpaws.

Understanding the Arabs use of the left hand brings me to the understanding of most Westerners and the use of their right hand. I frequent the men’s room as often as most and I practice a cleaning ritual afterwards, using soap and hot water. With most of the world’s population being right-handed, I make a safe assumption that the right-hand is more accurate at performing a critical removal of unhygienic mass from places the sun generally does not shine. Of course, in the U.S. we use paper products to keep most of the particles away from or skin.

What percentage of American’s, wash their hands after performing a natural urge? More American’s claim to wash their hands, than actually do! So I suggest that it is safer for an Arab to shake an American’s left hand than the American’s right hand. In addition, I question the safety of using a stair rail or an escalator’s rubber hand belt. Which is safer? Walking down the stairs with clean hands, not using the public hand rail or using the unhygienic public hand rail? I believe, I will risk a fall. Keep your unhygienic stuff to yourself.

Here is a question. The other day I saw a man without a right arm. What does he do? How does a culture with a left hand taboo, deal with this issue? Do they go hungry in an Arab driven culture? Do you know? Please comment below. For some reason, I don't believe the amputee gets many dinner invitations.

We may need to change our world customs and adopt bowing! The Japanese were very astute in developing their hygienic custom. Microbiologists around the world applaud the Japanese. Don’t even get me started on bar snacks and public access to bowls of nuts, pretzels and popcorn.

Here are a few other items to ponder: Buffets, doorknobs, gas (petrol) pump handles, telephones, elevator buttons, menus, coke/cola cans, server hands, pens in a bank and/or offices (do you chew on pens?). Is it necessary to go on? I don’t think so.

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