So yesterday it dawned on me that what I had previously registered as “gosh, even Koreans sometimes have trouble eating with chopsticks” (a sentiment verbally confirmed by colleagues commenting on my deft use of them) and occasionally noting how awkward some people held their chopsticks, upon closer inspection yesterday I noticed that many of the student’s grip looked awkward because, in actual fact, it is totally different!
So today I was watching and took notes. Instead of holding the top stick like a pencil, like all the diagrams at Chinese restaurants and the image above shows, the student I was observing seemed to be pushing down on the top stick with her middle finger. How can that be physically possible?
Then I noticed that the bottom chopstick was not resting on the ring finger, but on the pinky finger. In this arrangement, the fingers are barely bent at all. Try making your hand talk like inside a puppet. The position of when the puppet’s mouth is closed is similar to this chopstick hold.
AND. the entire arrangement’s pivot point was not about 1/3 of the way down the sticks, like in the image above, but instead very close to the top. So much so, that the stick ends were barely visible and barely extended beyond the hand.
In another arrangement, which I’ll call “the claw” it appears as if the students have a closed fist wrapped around the chopsticks and it’s hard to figure out how the sticks operate at all, as it’s mostly hidden from view.
I asked some students about this, and they said that my way was easier, but that their way was better. They couldn’t tell me why, but after I tried it myself, I’m thinking it requires/gives better hand dexterity.
And then I realized that this kind of chopsticks manipulation is probably ONLY possible because Korean chopsticks are flat!
Which is only possible because they’re metal…
Now, the majority of Koreans use their chopsticks as instructed in the video above, just like everyone else in the world, but I’d say about 30% of the students in my school are holding them differently. I’m not sure if this is just a natural variation like some people hold their pencils differently, or if it’s intentional. I suspect some of it is a kind of affectation/trend. (like the teacher who always transfers her noodles onto a spoon prior to eating, I assume to satisfy her idea of being more cosmopolitan) But whatever – I’m really hell bent on mastering it! If I do, I’ll try and film it for you somehow…fun fun fun! (doesn’t take much to make me happy)
Actually, Korean hands and gestures are a constant source of fascination for me. There’s a whole way of carrying oneself that I think may be thought of as more feminine or classy or something and it’s very different than how I carry myself. It’s about delicacy, whereas all my hand actions are strong and a little clumsy. Similar to shaking hands with Koreans is, in general, very limp, whereas Americans are very firm. And affectionate touching is very light and patting…wish I could film all this stuff without offending anyone! Not that I want to be more Korean, since I’m always being accosted by locals for directions, etc., but because it’s just interesting. Good thing I’m not in Italy!