When you spill salt, do you throw a pinch over your left shoulder for good luck?
Do you believe black cats are unlucky?
Do you think that if you break a mirror, you’ll have bad luck for seven years?
Do you avoid the number 13?
These are all superstitions with which most Americans are familiar.
Even if we don’t believe in them, we pass this information on to our children because it’s part of our collective cultural heritage. We feel they should be aware of these beliefs.
But what other superstitions do people believe around the world? How are they different? Here’s a brief look at superstitions around the world to help you understand other cultures.
The Spooky Numbers 4 and 17
In Japan, it’s the number 4, not 13, that makes hearts race. In Italy, it’s the number 17. In these cultures, many hotels and hospitals avoid using these numbers to prevent their guests and patients from unnecessary pessimism. Of course, these buildings still have fourth and seventeenth floors, they just aren’t listed as such.
The Broken Dish
In the Netherlands, a broken dish is believed to bring bad luck in much the same way a broken mirror does.
More About Cats
In the Netherlands, private matters should not be discussed when a cat is in the room. People believe that cats are untrustworthy and spread gossip.
Tuesdays hold a special place in superstition. Tuesday the 13th is considered a particularly bad-luck day in many cultures in much the same way that Friday the 13th is bad luck to many Americans. In India, you cannot get a hair cut on Tuesdays because it’s believed to bring bad luck.
In Romania, if you dream about dark water or that you are carrying a newborn baby in your arms, you can expect bad luck. In China, dreaming about teeth or snow means that your parents have died.
More About Mirrors
If you thought breaking a mirror was bad, then you definitely do not want to place a mirror anywhere near the foot of your bed. If you do, Italians believe it permits the devil to watch you sleep. And if you wake up in the night and catch a glimpse of your reflection in that mirror, it means that evil owns you.
Watch Out For the Evil Eye
Many cultures believe in the evil eye which brings big-time bad luck. In Guatemala, parents can protect their children from the evil eye by dressing the kids in red; even a red bracelet will help.
Don’t Get Swept Away
In Venezuela, some people believe that if someone pushes a broom over your feet while they are sweeping, they also sweep away your chances of ever getting married. In many parts of Africa, you are never supposed to sweep your house at night. It is believed that you will sweep your good luck away.
Respect the Moon
In China, if you point to the moon with your finger the tips of your ears will fall off.
Whether or not you’re superstitious, it’s good to be aware – and respectful – of other people’s beliefs. When you visit people in their homes or travel to different countries, you need to respect these beliefs in order to be a considerate guest.