Thirty per cent of the world's population generally eat with chopsticks. Japanese and Chinese chopsticks, however, are of slightly different design: Japanese chopsticks are usually tapered or pointed at the eating end, and Chinese chopsticks tend to be longer with a blunt or square end.
According to research published in the journal Applied Ergonomics in 1996, the perfect chopstick is 240mm long (180mm for children) and tapers from 6mm diameter to 4mm, with a two-degree tip angle.
Japanese etiquette strongly forbids licking the ends of chopsticks, a piece of rudeness known as neburibashi. Other chopstick taboos include waving them indecisively over your food (mayoibashi) and stuffing food into an already full mouth (komibashi).
According to scientists Dr Jim Al-Khalili and Dr Qiang Zhao at the University of Surrey, the comfort of using chopsticks is given by the equation:
C= comfort factor C0 = a constant taken, in the absence of other information, to be equal to 30 (incorporates unknown information, e.g. length of chopsticks and angle of chopsticks)
N= number of Chinese meals eaten with chopsticks
η (the Greek letter eta) = texture parameter including shape, softness and crumbliness (a piece of meat is easy to pick up and has a texture parameter close to 1, a grain of rice is not so easy and would have a tiny value of 0.05)
α (the Greek letter alpha) = slipperiness of food (the stickier it is the closer the value to 1)
d= diameter of food (in centimetres)
m= mass of food (in grams)
t= plate-to-mouth transit time (seconds)
What this says is that slippery or crumbly food in small heavy pieces brought slowly to your mouth is most difficult, but you'll improve with practice. One way of raising the value of N (your measure of chopstick experience) could be to visit the Kuaizi Museum in Shanghai, which contains over a thousand pairs of chopsticks. Kuaizi is the Chinese word for chopsticks, meaning 'quick little fellows'.
Fear of using chopsticks is called consecotaleophobia.