It is a truth universally acknowledged that tourists on holiday are likely to make fools of themselves. From telling an Italian to “rock on” with the seemingly-innocent hand gesture (which locally implies that his wife is being unfaithful) to giving a local Thai guide the thumbs-up (the native equivalent of the middle finger), it’s perfectly easy for the travelling man to offend his hosts, be ejected from a taxi and eternally shame himself, all without even trying!
While an open mind and willingness to embrace the local culture is what divides the pedestrian package holiday from the life-changing experiences, a spot of pre-departure education can save tourists from their own ignorance.
Luckily, most beliefs are cheerful and take on everyday misfortunes, such as the French belief that good fortune comes from accidentally treading in dog excrement with your left foot – a superstition most likely developed simply to cheer up the unfortunate soul/sole. The French also use the famous ‘merde’ as a way to say ‘break a leg’ or ‘good luck’ to someone. This just goes to show how excrement and luck seem very related, in French culture that is.
Greece is known for its mythology, philosophy, and cultural beliefs which have always been an integral part of its civilization, resulting in the many temples dedicated to Greek deities and heroes, the ruins of which still remain to this day. While the age of Olympian gods has ended, a system of modern beliefs remains. Today, having someone accidentally spill coffee is said to bring good financial fortune, which does sound like a handy excuse for clumsiness!
Some superstitions however have more sombre roots; in New Zealand’s Maori culture, the cute and innocent-looking pīwakawaka bird is actually considered to be a form of grim reaper. Other country’s superstitious practises veer towards the far more absurd. In Argentina, former president Carlos Menem is believed to bring bad luck wherever he goes, whatever he does, or to whoever he touches, and has been blamed for everything from Argentina’s economic downturn to personal injuries, and even football defeats. Nicknamed ‘The Unnameable’, some Argentinians will even hurriedly silence any who speak his name.
Suspicious about superstitions? The World’s Most Unusual Superstitions map captures these little-known and surprising cultural quirks across the globe, view them for yourself and find out if fortune is in store!