It’s Friday the 13th: strange superstitions from around the world
On the unluckiest day of the year, we find 13 unusual beliefs from other countries and cultures
In Ireland, we dodge ladders, black cats and magpies, but other cultures have their own seemingly senseless superstitions. Photograph: Getty Images
Consider yourself superstitious? Do you dodge ladders, black cats and magpies? If so, here are 13 more superstitions for you to take note of as you travel the world.
1. Check the weather before you travel to South Korea, because there is an entrenched belief there that if you go to sleep with a fan on in your room, you will die. Even medical professionals in some parts of the country warn against it. Many electric fans sold in South Korea come with a timer setting, which automatically turns the fan off after a few minutes, protecting people from believed fan-related deaths such as hypothermia and asphyxiation.
2. The Turks are known for having strange superstitions, but one of the strangest is the belief that if you chew gum after dark, it will turn into dead flesh. So turn to the mouth wash instead.
3. In Rwanda, an old wives’ tale says that women who eat goats meat are likely to grow a beard or to become stubborn. If neither of these fazes you, it might be worth noting that local women often retort that the story was made up by greedy men who wanted all the good meat.
4. As you walk past a graveyard in Japan, tuck your thumbs into your hand by wrapping your fingers around them to protect your parents from death. While you are there, avoid placing your chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice. It’s thought to bring misfortune.
5. If you are in India during a solar eclipse, stay indoors. Many people believe that the sun’s rays become toxic during an eclipse. It’s a belief still reported on by local newspapers.
6. Avoid whistling indoors in Lithuania. It is thought to summon devils that are committed to terrorising you. We’re not sure if humming counts, too.
7. It’s unlikely you’ll find yourself in Syria anytime soon, but if you do, leave your yo-yo at home. The seemingly innocent toy (which actually might have not so innocent origins as a hunting instrument) was blamed for a drought and apparently banned on January 21st, 1933.
8. Are you are committed to touching or knocking on wood on a regular basis to dodge bad consequences? If so, you can travel light in Argentina. Instead of “knocking on wood”, Argentinians touch their left testicle. If you don’t have a left testicle, a left breast will do. Right-sided body parts don’t have the same power.
9. If you have already banked on Ireland’s World Cup qualifying success and booked your tickets to Russia, leave the flowers at home if you are seeking love while you are there. Giving yellow flowers is considered to be a relationship curse because they symbolise infidelity. They aren’t great for friendships either, so stick with the vodka.
10. Whatever about spilling salt, in the Netherlands lending salt to a neighbour is considered bad luck. Singing at the dinner table is also a no-no because it’s thought that you are singing to the devil. That’s one way to keep the hi-jinks until after dinner.
11. This is hardly one that will impact many people but walking backwards in Portugal is thought to be bad luck because it shows the devil your path. While you are on your feet, avoid entering a room with your left foot while you are there, to avoid bad luck. When it comes to good luck, thankfully the whole family can get some if you spill wine on the dinner table.
12. There are plenty of superstitions and traditions linked to a making a toast or a cheers. The Germans take it pretty seriously though – to cheers with a glass of water in Germany is to wish death on everyone you are drinking with. Lovely…
13. Thirteen might be considered unlucky in many Western countries – in 1995, Finland dedicated Friday the 13th as National Accident Day – but other numbers take the honour around the world. In Afghanistan, the number 39 is thought to be cursed because of how it sounds. The pronunciation of the number is too similar to the word morda-gow, which means “dead cow” in the Dari language, and is also an offensive slang term for a pimp.
In China, the number 4 is thought be cursed for a similar reason – it sounds too similar to the Chinese word for death. Many buildings in China have no fourth floor or any floor with a “four” in it. This means if you are looking for the 100th floor, you’ll only go 80 floors high.