I didn't know it was bad luck

I started wondering about what Australians consider to be bad luck right after I bit my tongue as I was wishing 'good luck' to a friend who was about to take a university exam. I must have seemed very rude to her but, as you may not know, in Italy, wishing someone ‘good luck’ is the quickest way to jinx someone's exam preparation and make them fail any test. As one does, I quickly got onto Facebook for an impromptu intercultural poll:

Is it bad luck to wish 'good luck' before an exam?

bad luck across cultures

Turns out it isn't, at least in Commonwealth Countries.

Among the comments, one stood out as particularly interesting: in Germany they don't wish you luck but 'success', because saying 'good luck' would imply that's what you rely on, instead of skills. Also, in Argentina, it's bad luck to whistle at night, and for Greeks and Indians there must be money inside wallets and pockets, and they would never hand you a knife directly, they would put it down and wait for you to grab it yourself.

I find these foreign superstitions so interesting and I wonder if Italian ones sounded just as peculiar to you. At least I hope they would, since this is where we're heading this week.

Strangely enough, a few Italian superstitions are about not getting married, therefore not procreating, which is clearly seen as a kind of bad luck in our culture. Two of the quickest ways to avoid wedding bells are to sit at the corner of a table, and to say something at the same time as your interlocutor without touching your nose right after the mishap. I just learned that, according to Greek superstition, if you enter a house from one door you have to exit from the same door, or you won't get married either! There are Chinese superstitions about this topic as well, more specifically: if you don't eat everything in your bowl your spouse won't be a good one.

But don't you dare to finish all your food in Italy! It's not considered bad luck as much as rude, as if to suggest the food you were given wasn't enough. If a grandma cooked for you, expect an instant refill of your plate. It's in our DNA.

In Italy we believe that, if you enter the cathedral in your University city and/or climb the clock tower and/or cross a certain square diagonally, you won't graduate. Not that it's bad luck per se, but some people may care. Just as most Italians are really into the whole crossing of hands.

If a group of people is shaking hands, it's extreme bad luck if two pairs cross each other's hand-shake. The same rule applies while toasting with other people: do not cross arms, do not toast with water or an empty glass, and do make eye contact with the person you are toasting with.

I may have made this up, but if you spill champagne, or sparkling wine, you should put some behind your ears. Is it a thing? Do you end up not getting married if you do otherwise? We’ll never know.

One thing I do know the answer of, is why in Italy the unlucky day isn't Friday 13th, but the 17th. In Latin the number 17 is written as XVII which, shuffled, reads VIXI, meaning 'I lived'.

The more you know!

I would assume death, in general, isn't a lucky topic. For example, it's bad luck to wish 'happy birthday' before someone's actual birthday, as if they wouldn't live long enough to see it. And, for obvious reasons, driving behind an empty funeral car, or even seeing one, is considered extreme bad luck. To prevent any repercussion, Italians would either quickly touch their testicles, or gesture downward Devil horns with their hands.

Last, but not least, in Italy you shall not wear the colour purple at the theatre, either on stage or in the audience. The roots of this superstition begin the Dark Ages, during Lent, priests used to wear purple robes and would prohibit all theatre plays, hence the deep disliking for such colour by those who, for forty days, had no job.

I would love to know more of these superstitions from all over the world. I feel like they are not only fun fact to bring up in conversations, but also give countries I have never visited more colour and personality, and sometimes explain a seemingly rude behaviour.

Image: via

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