Left-handed, right-minded

Approximately 12 percent of the world’s overall population (and 17 percent of Living Abroad’s staff, myself included) is left-handed. While history has sometimes treated us with suspicion, more recent research has unearthed that the left-handedness is associated with many positive traits, such as athleticism, creativity and leadership. However, we left-handed sometimes think those traits are developed from daily life adjustments, including many that actually have ties to global mobility.

When packing for an assignment, the left-handed often need to think about tools for daily living. If bringing specific items, such as particular personal care items or note-taking supplies, means less frustration upon arrival, it can be worth the effort.

In some cultures, it’s inappropriate to use one’s left hand while dining, as the left hand is reserved for hygiene. For left-handed people encountering this for the first time, practicing by eating right hand dominant meals in advance of arrival is very important. Keeping something in your left hand while you do this, such as a marble or even a small fidget spinner, can help.

The left-handed are generally aware that our dominant hand is rarely the preferred hand for a handshake greeting. However, it’s important for anyone to know when offering a left hand is an alternative — for example, if the other person’s right hand is injured — or if another form of greeting is more appropriate in those instances.

Driving in a country with different road rules and lane orientations can present challenges for anyone, even if it’s assumed that the change (for example, left-lane driving in the United Kingdom) works in a left-handed person’s favor. In situations where that transition is particularly challenging, seek out insight from those who have mastered it and share your “handedness.” It’s also important to know what other elements of daily life are influenced by this change of orientation, such as pedestrian movement and courtesies on mass transportation.

No matter your dominant hand, if you are accustomed to life in an environment where accessibility strongly influences design, a new location can present a wide range of challenges. Discovering what those challenges are, and knowing what resources there are to address them, can be a pivotal part of reducing your stress…and improving your assignment success.