POST D : Left Hand Taboo

In Indonesia, to use your left hand, whether it be to give or receive something from someone, is considered rude and insulting. This etiquette comes from the Islamic religion so this sort of etiquette is not exclusive to Indonesians, but since Indonesia is a Muslim country, this makes it part of their culture.

Particularly the western society would find this strange, since if both hands are functional and to not use and discriminate the other hand would sound a bit absurd. In actuality, there is a logical reasoning behind this unusuality.

[Novroz 2013]
In most of Indonesia, the toilets are slightly different than what most of us are used to. ‘Squat Toilet’ features a large water bowl and a gayung (plastic scoop) which is used to scoop out water for flushing or cleaning after yourself. This means that the person would have to use their left hand to wipe themselves (after doing the deed), since their other hand would be occupied with the gayung. This, basically is the main reason as to why giving out your left hand is insulting, since it’s considered filthy and obscene.

[RubyWhatever n.d]
Another option of toilet in Indonesia, would feature the usual toilet we’re familiar with, with an additional water spray and no toilet paper. This was before when tissues were still considered as unnecessary, but now they are available at most places. With the tissues being introduced to society, the left-hand taboo would be invalid, yet it still remains due to the fact that it has been embedded in our minds from when we were young. Therefore this etiquette have become a tradition in the Indonesian society.

I have noticed most of the time when a person has no choice but to use their left hand, they would say “maaf” (sorry), otherwise the person would be labelled as ill-mannered. This rule would still apply for left-handed people, since the water sprays are consistently installed on the right side, hence their left hand would be the one doing the dirty work as that would be most convenient for the user.

To put it concisely, to give with right hand appears more sincere, and to receive something with right hand would appear more appreciative. However it all comes down to the person’s mindset, whether this is significant enough for the person or not.

Farooq, A. n.d, Donating Hand, AlQuranClasses, viewed 16 February 2017, <;.

RubyWhatever, n.d, Indonesian Toilet, Flickr, viewed 16 February 2017, <;.

Novroz, 2013, Indonesia Banget #29 : The Toilets and the Water, wordpress, viewed 16 February 2017, <;.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s