In the UK we grow up learning about superstitions, whether we believe in them or not. From the lucky number 7, to having bad luck if you walk under a ladder – it’s difficult to be completely cynical when common superstitions are such an ingrained part of our culture.
But what about other cultures? Is it just in the UK that some people are terrified to go out on Friday 13th, or is it an unlucky day worldwide? Ladbrokes have looked into the significance of numbers around the world…
The number 4
In Japan, the number 4 is deemed to be a very unlucky number. This is because in the Japanese language, the word for ‘four’ sounds like the word for ‘death’. When someone is seriously ill, it’s still considered very unlucky to mention the number four and you should never, ever stay in hotel room number 444! The superstition is taken so seriously that many buildings here do not even have a fourth floor.
It’s not just Japan either: the number 4 is associated with death in other Asian countries – for example China, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam.
The number 9
In Thailand, it is believed that the number nine brings with it great fortune. Odd numbers in general are considered to be lucky in Thailand but the number nine stands out most as the Thai word for this sounds similar to two other important words.
The number 17
The number 13 might be an unlucky day for some, but in Italy it’s 17 that people dread. The roman numerals for 17 are XVII, which can be turned into the anagram VIXI – ‘I have lived’ in Latin. Therefore Italian associate the number 17 with death, as ‘I have lived’ can be interpreted as your life is over. Today the number is still widely feared, so much so that some Alitalia planes have no 17th row.
The number 13
Italians might hate the number 17 but surprisingly they think the number 13 is lucky. In many Judeo-Christian countries, the number 13 is associated with Judas – the 13th disciple. However before Christianity, 13 was associated with the Great Goddess, who brought fertility to the land.
The number 10
The Kikuyu tribe of Kenya believe that the number 10 is so unlucky that they don’t even say the number aloud. When it comes to counting, especially people, the number 10 is skipped.
It’s funny how one number can be seen as unlucky in one country, and the luckiest of all in another. It just goes to show that the world is full of fascinating superstitions and beliefs.