Superstitious Me

Okay, so last week in my post These Boots were made for Walkin'! I introduced the topic of superstitions and their relevance in Chinese culture. Seriously, Chinese people make us Irish look like a rational bunch! Whether its passing under a ladder, or opening an umbrella indoors, I have always found superstitions to be quite interesting. Having spent around five years here in Taiwan, and being engaged to a Taiwanese woman, I have had the opportunity to learn of quite a few Chinese superstitions that most people may not be aware of. And be forewarned, many of them have to do with GHOSTS!

1. Whistle while you work!


(Mickey doing what he does best found at

One of the superstitions that I have had a hard time coping with, has been the taboo on whistling at night. The sound is thought to attract ghosts, and nobody wants that! Now, while I am a mature adult(at least most of the time!), and I am more than happy to conform to my host country's cultural beliefs and traditions, I honestly have a hard time with this as I often just whistle when I'm in a good mood! This bothered my fiancé when we first started dating, and I have tried my best to stop and rarely do so now, but hey, sometimes you just got to let your whistle blow!

2. Stick it to them!


(Me playing with my chopsticks after watching Wolverine….Sweet!)

…Or don't. One of the most culturally relevant superstitions to Chinese people, is that sticking your chopsticks end-up in your bowl of rice is bad luck. This was something that I was surprised to see in the new Wolverine movie (watch it, because it's wolverine, bub, nuf said) when I watched it the other day, though I suppose i shouldn't have been surprised considering how much cultural exchange there has been between China and Japan for centuries (though I admittedly know little of Japanese cultural traditions). The reason this is taboo is because in Chinese funerals Incense sticks are burned, and the chopsticks look quite similar to these. So proper table etiquette is to place your chopsticks lengthwise across your bowl.

3. Tic-Toc-Tic-Toc!


(One of my all time favorite paintings by Salvador Dali taken from

Okay, so as I promised here is the reason why you don't give clocks as gifts in Chinese culture. The reason is that to give someone a clock in Mandarin or sòngzhōng(送) sounds like sòngzhōng(送終) which is when you go to pay your respects to a dead relative or friend (like to attend their funeral). So if you give someone a clock for a present, it's like you want them to die! Not something you do for a friend, but if you hate someone, then I guess it's okay…cmon, I'm just kidding alright? Don't do it, PERIOD!

I hope that you found this article informative, and if you knew everything already, then at least entertaining. Rest assured, I have not exhausted my repertoire of superstitions, so look for a future post to learn even more ways to annoy your Chinese friends!


Chinese phrases of the day:

sòng(送)= give

shízhōng(時鐘)= clock

sòngzhōng(送終)= literally give an end; pay your respects for a friend or relative at their funeral



4 Replies to “Superstitious Me”

  1. There are so many superstitions surrounding ghost month! I have done some things during ghost month in previous years that Taiwanese would never do. Some even approached me and said ‘You can’t do that.’

    BTW, wait ’til you get married. Picking a wedding date will depend on the lunar calendar and some couples even go to a fortune teller to find the perfect date for them!!

    1. Yea, it’s a really interesting subject! My fiancé’s family is very traditional, so I know all about the lunar calendar and choosing good dates (for moving, getting married, and tons more), not to mention going to a fortune teller to determine your kid’s name! We’re getting married soon and we’ve been dealing with all the traditional stuff with her family, and it certainly keeps life interesting! Are you married over here?

  2. This is totally random, but I just thought I’d interject on that note cuz I’m married over here 😀

    Seeing as your last post in this conversation was in August, perhaps you’re married now. Personally, I’ve been married to my Taiwanese better half for almost exactly one year. His parents are very traditional, as you mentioned your in-laws also are. I’m curious about your living situation. Do you and your wife or fiance live together with her folks or do you have your own place?

    As for me, my husband and I lived in his parents home for almost two and a half years before I finally put my foot down and insisted we move out. His parents are great and I adore them, I just can’t do the whole co-habitation with the inlaws thing. I have become aware however, through reading other people’s blogs that many foreign spouses live together with their Chinese or Taiwanese in-laws without too many issues. What are your thoughts about this?

    By the way, there were no hard feelings from them when we moved out even though his dad had a room remodeled for us to stay in, Heh heh, I hope he doesn’t think I am ungrateful, I’m just territorial about space. He’s still very congenial and warm whenever we all gather together. And whenever I travel out of Taiwan I always bring them back lots of souvenirs and small gifts. Taiwanese people SO love gifts. But then again, who doesn’t?

    1. It’s cool ou have had a similar experience. My fiancé’s family is great and they were great to me when I lived with them. No complaints at all, though the whole wedding culture is a pain. I have moved back to Texas and am currently waiting for her immigration papers to go through and then she will be following over. Pretty soon, it’ll be my parents’ turn to play the host, but not for long hope! I like my privacy. Thanks for commenting, it was good to hear from you! I haven’t been real active on here lately due to the move, but I’m going to change that!

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