Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

Often foreigners in Japan are complimented on how they use chopsticks. Many, however, are not actually using them properly. Then again, neither are most Japanese people. Go figure.

As Kotaku reported in 2012, only 30 per cent of Japanese people in their 40s and 50s hold chopsticks correctly. Each year, that number gets smaller and smaller.

But can you spot the proper way to hold chopsticks? In the picture below you can see all these different ways of holding chopsticks in Japan, but only one way is the right way. Can you tell which?*

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

[Image via にゅーす特報]

So, while the number of people who use chopsticks correctly might be lower than you'd think, it is still a sign of good manners. Using them incorrectly is a sign of bad manners — and even, oh dear, poor upbringing. That's why when Japanese celebrities appear on food shows and hold their chopsticks in a horribly incorrect or even odd manner, they are often mocked online.

Chopstick specialty outlet Seiwa did a poll, revealing that nearly 90 per cent of respondents had a "highly favourable" impression of people who use chopsticks properly. It's good manners! If you don't know how or need a refresher, let Chopstick Man show you how it's done:

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

Hold one chopstick, like so, with your pointer, middle finger, and thumb. You should be able to move the chopstick up and down.

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

Not like this. This is wrong. Don't move your thumb around!

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

This is correct. Notice how only the pointer, the middle finger and the chopstick are moving?

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

With practice, you should be able to move the chopstick like so. Also, if you work on your peace sign and thumbs up, you should be able to master them, too!

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

For the second chopstick, you hold it like this between your thumb and your palm. This chopstick does not move while being used.

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

And, as the text points out, this is the correct way to use chopsticks!

If you visit Japan (or currently live here), don't stress too much about your chopstick use, because lots of locals aren't doing it proper, either. Plus, many people in Japan don't judge foreigners on how proper their chopstick use is, and instead, simply give a Pavlovian "You're good at using chopsticks" whenever they see foreigners using them — regardless if the use is correct or not. (So, by that same token, don't think you're great at using them either!)

Do You Use Chopsticks Correctly? Are You Sure?

But if you do want to use them correctly and don't already, the above walkthrough should prove helpful.

*Number 6 shows the correct way to hold chopsticks.

Pictures: Seiwa


    If the food is going in your mouth then you're using them correctly :D

      I was going to say, who cares how you're holding them, as long as the food doesn't end up still on your plate/on the table/down your chin

      Pretty much this:

    BAH! easy! Try using korean chopsticks. They are metal and flat/thin, much heavier and smaller.

      Ah, so they are Korean. I always thought they just put those slippery bastards out to have a good laugh at the gaijin fools.

      I've wondered why that is. I find, in my limited experience of Korean food, that it tends to be a little less slippery than most Chinese food. A Korean friend told me that they don't use the metal ones all the time in Korea - they still have the disposable wooden ones as well.

        I think a big part of it has to do with the type of food you're eating. Thinner-pointed chopsticks - especially sturdy metal ones - are much better for segmenting your food without holding a giant piece up to your mouth and biting a bit off. Chopping/tearing/slicing is easier with a pointier chopstick.

        It's due to the fact that traditional Korean haute cuisine uses a long handled steel spoon not unlike a western spoon to accompany the chopsticks. They're made of metal to represent the wealth of royalty and the elite yangban class. Over time, as this type of food made its way to the commoners (as most food does) type of utensils went along with it. Note, Korean cuisine has always heavily used a spoon with their eating, due to a lot of being hot soups and stews to fit their climate. As for why they're flat and rectangular, likely due to the blacksmith techniques at the time. Easier to bang metal into flat shapes than cylindrical cones.

        Last edited 05/03/15 3:35 pm

    My use of Chopsticks is like how I play golf. I get the food/ball in the mount/hole eventually but its not pretty.

    Turns out I have been using them correctly this whole time. Cool.

    Interestingly its the same for knife and fork. There is an etiquette behind it.

      I do that wrong, too, I know. I've been trained in how to do it properly. But most of the time I go so far wrong as to even rest an arm on the table while I eat.

    I'm not even sure how you're supposed to pick up food if you're holding them like picture 4.

      Yeah, I have no idea either. My wife uses them in a scissor grip like this, as it's how she's always done it. Even when she shows me how she picks up food, my brain just can't grasp the physics of it.

    Yes! I use them as in figure 6. I can also use them in both hands at once, which is handy for grabbing the choicest morsels at dinner parties :-)

    Much like how most people hold a pen isn't necessarily the way everyone holds a pen.. right and wrong in these contexts is a bit hard to swallow. Unless you plan on living in Japan or you are a foreign dignitary, I wouldn't bother worrying about it.

    My only comment other than that is that sometimes holding the chopsticks in a certain way makes it "easier" to pick up and hold food while at the same time reducing the possibility of muscle cramps.

    Last edited 05/03/15 2:28 pm

      I'd argue that there is a correct way to hold a pen, by virtue of there having been a correct way to hold a quill. I'll admit that is actually conjecture on my part because I've never used a quill, but have a calligraphy brush and applying similar logic of them both using ink. Writing in ink requires a proper technique.

      Likewise with chopsticks, the proper way to hold chopsticks is actually universal in all chopstick using cultures, and is the way it is as it is the best way to leverage the strength in your fingers to pick up food, as well as upholding a bunch of other areas in chopstick etiquette. The reason I can use the flat Korean ones easily whereas many people can't is due the fact I was taught to hold chopsticks (those square white ones you see in Chinese restaurants) properly. The flat Korean ones simply can't be held using the wrong techniques.

      Last edited 05/03/15 3:24 pm

    Chopstick Man is one angry looking dude. Best obey his instructions.

    Does anyone seriously use their chopsticks like in the wrong examples? The pinky extension one looks like it would cramp your hand after a minute.

    Just want to say THANKS! I can never get the had of using chopsticks and always drop ginger all over the table when I'm eating with friends. This should help me get the hang of it.

    Dinuka Perera

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