Traveling through the world of bad luck: curious superstitions in other countries


Bad luck? Floor number thirteen, (CC) Cory Doctorow

Does it bring bad luck to publish a post about superstitions on Friday the 13th? If I were in the United States, United Kingdom or any other country of Anglo-Saxon culture, maybe, but here in Spain on Friday the 13th is a perfectly normal day for those who believe in superstitions, although something else would be to mark the calendar on a Tuesday 13. With what other curious cultural differences about bad luck is one when traveling?

If fate takes you to China, the country of Feng shui, the number to avoid is not 13 but 4 (be careful if you see it written in one direction, do not make anyone pronounce 肆). Pronounced in Mandarin, sounds like the word "death" (死) and that is not exactly a good omen.

Do you feel like eating something? The noodles are a longevity symbol so they never cut themselves no matter how long they are, you have to eat them whole or you will be shortening your life.

That what the body asks of you is rice? They also eat with chopsticks but do not even think about leaving them stuck in the middle of the plate, put them aside because in China rice is a offering left to the deceased... with chopsticks nailed in its middle.

Not only in China does that happen, as a rule to remember keep in mind that if you are in a country where incense sticks are burned in temples - an offering made by nailing them in sand piles - the stick the chopsticks in the rice it brings bad luck.

Incense Offering in Angkor Wat, Cambodia (C) Avistu

Japan has many historical and cultural ties with China, so they also share signs of bad omen (such as not saying the number 4 and preventing sticks from sticking in the rice) but, naturally, it has its own superstitions.

Never give someone to taste of your food passing a piece of your sticks to his, that gesture reminds of a ceremony in which remains of bones from a cremation are introduced into an urn.

And nothing to use red ink to write a person's name, it is with that color that the names of the deceased are engraved on the tombstones.

The last time I stumbled upon a friend carrying a baby (Chus serving as a huge babysitter for his brother Fer) I could not help saying a “How beautiful!”. Big mistake of having been in one of the countries most visited by tourists for decades: Thailand.

There it's bad luck to say nice things of a baby or toddler, because it is an invitation for evil spirits (ahem) to take it with you.

If you want to be kind and give a gift to families or friends, other than scarves (which, by the way, in Spain was quite typical) because your relationship will end in tears.

And if you have to go to visit someone at the hospital (which is bad luck at first), do not come up with wear black. Prohibited. Well, it is not illegal but black is associated with pain and sadness, as in Spain.

In countries where Buddhism has a strong implantation, such as Thailand and most of those in Asia, pointing with the feet in the direction of a Buddha figure, a monk or almost anything it's tremendously impolite. It is not bad luck but it does not hurt to show a little respect for local customs, right?

Have a good Friday. And thirteen.