“You Write Like That?” – Being Left-Handed in Taiwan


Happy Leftie Day!!” 

Those were the words my sister posted on my facebook page on August 13th, 2013 – the date which has been deemed as Left-Handers Day internationally.

And my nephew, who is also left-handed, wrote “We lefties are amazing.”

And that we are!!!

And rare! 

Only 10% of the population are lefties!


Growing up in Canada and being left-handed or turning your paper sideways to write, although maybe not the norm, was nothing to blink an eye at or comment about.  Surely, it was nothing to deem unusual, and certainly it wasn’t strange.

But all of that changed when I set foot in Taiwan.  Filling out application forms, signing my signature, giving my people my e-mail or phone number, or any other simple writing task became a 10 minute conversation (at least).

Most Taiwanese children who are left-handed are usually encouraged (sometimes forced) to write with their right hand from an early age. Once I asked why and I was told it was better to be right-handed when writing Chinese because it is easier to write and remember the character stroke order.

So, you can imagine the amount of unwanted attention and confused comments I received when I informed them that my dad is left-handed as well and I once heard that left-handers are very artistic, smart people.  The list of powerful, left-handed people is quite substantial.

But, I think the most confusion surrounds my writing angle. Most people position their paper straight (vertically); however, I turn my paper and write sideways and write horizontally. I have always done it. It is my own style and technique. It is part of me and I never plan on changing it.

Then, they are amazed that I have such beautiful, neat penmanship. Apparently, most left-handers write ‘very messy’ which makes it hard to read and articulate.

Personally, I do not like the attention but people have the right to their opinion.  I am noticed a lot here because I am a foreigner.  I am constantly stared at, pointed at, my presence acknowledge with a constant wave of ‘Hellos.’  And writing this way raises ‘being different and standing out’ to a whole new level. 

But honestly, it is OK!  I have had the opportunity to practice speaking Chinese on countless occasions because of being left-handed and believe it or not, one of the conversations about being left-handed actually turned into a great tutoring job! 

Now…over to you!!  What is your opinion?  Would you comment on someone being left-handed?


23 thoughts on ““You Write Like That?” – Being Left-Handed in Taiwan

  1. We recently talked about the level of attention levied on foreigners here in Taiwan, too. But, neither of us are left-handed, so we didn’t know this! We had heard that people are generally told from a young age not to write with their left hand, but we didn’t really have any real context or confirmation until now. Thanks for the info, and good luck with being left-handed!

    1. Thanks for dropping by! Yes, foreigners get a lot of attention here and being left-handed brings it to an even greater level. I’ll be sure to check out your post about being a ‘waiguoren’!!

  2. Welcome to the club – I’m also left-handed and even people in Europe were sometimes surprised. I’ve also noticed that most of Chinese students are forced to write with their right hand from an early age. In Europe, it’s commonly believed that left-handed people are more into art, literature and they have amazing writing skills. In China it’s just the opposite.

  3. I’ve never thought that being left-handed would be a problem or seen in a weird way in other countries. It’s probably because I’m right handed that I’ve never paid too much attention to it, but it’s very interesting to hear more about it.

  4. I hope our child is a leftie. 😀 One grandma was ambidextrous. I think she was really a leftie but forced to be a rightie. I used to like to practice writing with my left hand. I rode my board as a leftie and have always put mascara on my left eye with my left hand and my right with my right hand. I think it’s neat to have a dominant hand but it’s not always easy to be a leftie with desks and scissors, for example. I’ll ask hubs about being a leftie in Jpn.

    1. I think things are changing in Taiwan now. I went from having zero left-handed students for many years to having three in just one class (four including myself). Too bad it is only changing now because my husband was a leftie who was forced to become a rightie. And I know one Taiwanese girl who writes with her right (force to) and draws the most amazing comics with her left. BTW, I would love to know if it is the same in Japan or not!

      1. Interesting! I don’t recall too many specifics when I was teaching. I had the occasional left-handed student. I’ll ask Hitoshi and see what he found growing up. I assume it’s likely changing in Japan, as well. Did you ever have classmates who had to wear an elastic around their hand with the pencil held at a certain angle? I think that’s just as bad as forcing someone to write with the non-dominant hand.

  5. Reblogged this on Foreign Sanctuary and commented:

    Yesterday, August 13th, was Left Hander’s Day! To all the other south paws out there, it’s a special day just for us!

    I wrote this post awhile ago about being left-handed in Taiwan. It is something that I never really thought about before coming here. Hope you enjoy!

    And I hope to be back blogging by the end of the month. Thanks for all your kind messages left on my last post and for understanding!! You guys are so kind, the best!!

  6. I never thought about what it’s like for lefties living in the East. I wasn’t aware that it is seen as a negative thing in other countries. People get praised for it in the West because it means you’re probably very clever or artistic. Still learning new things everyday. 😛

  7. I used to be able to write with my left and right hand as well in my younger years which changed after an accident which left my left hand unuseable for long time for any fine motoric skills. Now years later I cant write any longer but still use my left hand for many things only lefthanders would do. Oh well…
    I have seen all kind of crazy writing positions for lefthanders, once it was even upside down but I hope he was just mocking me..

  8. I’m a leftie, and turn my paper same you do! 🙂 My penmanship isn’t as nice as yours, but it isn’t bad. Both my parents are right-handed, but I have a lot of left-handed cousins on my dad’s side of the family. When I was little (1960’s), Mom wanted to make me right handed, but Dad wouldn’t let her.

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