The world and its inhabitants tend to be curious and strange. Superstitions are possibly amongst the most bizzare of human ideas. An irrational believe in supernatural, spiritual powers, a believe in magic and fate. A causal relation between an action and good or bad luck. Superstitions have influenced life all over this planet for many years and even though most of them seem nothing but plain absurd, sometimes finding out about their origins helps you understand a countries people and culture.
Everybody knows a wrong present can put somebody off quite easily. Sometimes, however, it is not just a matter of taste, but also superstition. There is many countries where you should never give knives or scissors as a present, neither accept them, unless you want to get rid off that person. The sharp edge is believed to cut the bond between those people. However, there is an easy solution to the problem, simply give a penny for the knife and the gift is free of this curse.
Another difficult present, according to African superstition, is shoes. If you give someone shoes, they will walk right out of your life.
But this is not the only thing that can go wrong with shoes. If you put a pair of new shoes on a table in the UK you might cause somebodies death. Finding shoes on a table used to be a sign of a deceased minor, often a way of informing his family of the tragedy.
While the Number 13 generally does not cause an uneasy feeling in Japan and China, the Number 4 definitely does. This is due to the fact that the words 4 and death sound very similar.
Sticking your chopsticks upright into your bowl, especially when it´s a bowl of rice, is not just rude but believed to be very unlucky. At Japanese funerals, bowls of rice with chopsticks in them are placed at the altar.
In China, a long noodle means a long life. You should therefore never cut a noodle or bite it off as it may shorten your life. But be careful! Chocking on it might have the same result.
In Germany, people believe that lighting a cigarette with a candle kills a seaman. This does sound odd, however, many years ago seamen would carve match sticks while having their nets in the water, waiting for the fish. The money they made fishing often wasn´t enough to put food on the table and the additional income from selling match sticks helped them to make ends meet. So it is probably best not to use a candle, just in case.
And if you ever wonder about limes or lemons and chilli on a string at the entrance of an Indian shop, the owner is trying to please “Alakshmi”, the goddess of misfortune. It is believed that she likes sour and spicy tastes and will spare those who provide it.
Of course there are many more superstitions for you to discover all around the world, so keep your eyes and ears open, don´t walk under a ladder, knock on wood and break a leg!