Posted by: Jack Henry | July 12, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Pointing Fingers and the Dutch Reach

Today I was looking at an article by Trivia Genius, about etiquette—primarily why it is considered rude to point at people and things with your pointer finger. In the process, I found some alternatives to pointing, and I also learned a new term: Dutch Reach. Here are the two pieces about manners and the new term.

Finger Pointing: The Disney Solution and the Friendly Skies

When assisting theme park guests, Disney employees are trained to point with two conjoined fingers, index and middle. While the act reportedly doubles a nod to Walt Disney’s smoking, the larger explanation is that standard pointing is considered rude in numerous cultures—especially if aimed at another person. A perception that dates back to Shakespeare’s time, pointing brings unwanted attention to the recipient, implying that they’ve committed a wrong. Repeated pointing in Japan can even instigate hostility. Figurative “finger-pointing” is defined as “making explicit and often unfair accusations of blame.” In situations where you feel compelled to point, it is kinder to use an open palm, flight attendant-style. [KC – This is helpful. Next time I see a dolphin or an osprey on one of my beach walks, I’m going to point it out to my mom with an open hand or a two-finger Disney salute. It may look crazy,
but at least it won’t be rude!]

The Dutch Reach

Amsterdam is an amazing city because of its beauty, history, openness, museums, and people. I’ve also never seen so many bicycles in my life. The city has separate lanes for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians everywhere and in both directions (coming and going from wherever). Now the story behind the Dutch Reach.

Cycling accounts for more than 25% of daily travel in the Netherlands; thus, Dutch citizens tend to be more conscientious toward bike riders than Americans. Yet we can all learn from their example with the “Dutch Reach,” a subtle move for anyone seated on the left-hand side of a car. Upon parking, Dutch drivers are instructed to use their right hands when opening their doors, even though their left hands are closer. This forces individuals to fully turn their upper bodies toward their exit, increasing the probability that they will spot anyone approaching in a bike lane. Some local drivers even tie ribbons to their door handles as reminders, and the Dutch Reach Project employs the slogan, “Reach, Swivel, Look, Open”—good safety advice regardless of your seat placement.

In case you are a more visual learner, here is a diagram from the Dutch Reach Project web site:

It seems like a great idea to me! In San Diego, many of the streets have just been repainted and reorganized to include a separate lane for bicycle riders. It’s a perfect time to adopt the Dutch Reach!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her

Technical Editor, Advisory

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