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Friday, 22 January 2016

7 Malaysian superstitions - which ones do you believe in? - Expat Go Malaysia

Every country out there has its fair share of superstitions, and Malaysia is no different. Having grown up here for the past 21 years, I have undoubtedly experienced and witnessed superstitious beliefs on multiple occasions. So, let us take a look at some of the unique superstitions that most Malaysians have grown up with.

1. Sweeping the house at night brings bad luck

Sweeping the house at night is considered off limits by most Malaysian families. It is strongly believed that this brings bad luck, as the good luck is being ‘swept away’, especially when sweeping the porch.

What’s the reason behind this superstition?

The logic behind this is that it is pretty difficult to sweep the house at night due to low visibility. Sweeping in the mornings or afternoons obviously provides much more daylight, therefore making the task all the easier, and so you are less likely to have to sweep the house again shortly after.

2. Say no to the number 4

Death + 4
Chinese characters: left – Death, right ; Four – Photo credit: Banana Walking / elwynn /
Let’s talk about tetraphobia; in simpler terms, the fear of the number 4. Especially common among the Chinese community, it is a usual sight to see elevators and houses being labelled as 3A or 13A, rather than 4 or 14. This is particularly interesting to Westerners who would regularly go out of their way to avoid the number 13.

What’s the reason behind this superstition?

When spoken in Mandarin, the number 4, si, sounds similar to the word ‘death’, . Hence, it is not exactly practical to live in a house labelled as ‘death’. Well, unless you plan on bringing back the Ghostbusters of course.

3. Do not cut your nails at night

Clipping your nails after the sun sets is a taboo, as it is equivalent to snipping away your lifespan. So be prepared for a premature death the next time you decide to give yourself an evening mini-manicure…

What’s the reason behind this superstition?

The reason or this strange belief is simply that the lack of light at night makes this task more difficult. So be patient the next time you need to cut your nails and wait until morning, so you can accurately neaten up those cuticles.

4. You can’t clean the house on New Year’s Day

Very similar to the first superstition mentioned in this list, cleaning the house on the most auspicious day of the year is not going to end up well. For the rest of the year, you will be haunted with bad luck and negative energy, as all the good vibes have been swept away during New Year’s Day spring cleaning.

What’s the reason behind this superstition?

The logic in this in unbelievably straightforward; who on earth wants to spend New Year’s cleaning the cobwebs on your ceiling? You are meant to spend New Year’s with your loved ones, not with your dustpan and mop.

5. Do not shake your legs uncontrollably

How many of us have fallen victim to an hour-long lecture from our mothers or grandmothers after being caught shaking our legs nonchalantly? This rather casual pastime is believed to be the main culprit as to why your wallets are empty. Guys, stop blaming your girlfriends. Shaking your legs is seen as ‘shaking away’ your wealth and prosperity.

What’s the reason behind this superstition?

The logic in this is firstly because we only resort to shaking our legs when we’re free or bored. It is very unlikely that you will end up shaking your legs when you are right in the middle of something important.
Hence, the superstition was probably established as another way of telling you get you off that comfy couch, get to work, and be useful!

6. Never sit on books

Photo credit: CoolR
This is another one of those bizarre superstitions. As all Malaysians have been told while growing up, books are for reading, not for sitting on. Apparently, sitting on books must be avoided at all times as it leads to stupidity.

What’s the reason behind this superstition?

There is no exact explanation behind this other than the fact that books are a source of knowledge. Thus, sitting on them is indeed disrespectful and immature. In addition, ever heard of chairs and benches? Books aren’t even that comfortable.

7. Never allow your plate to dry after a meal

Dirty plate
Photo credit: naruepon ponglungka
This is an extremely well-known practice among the Indian community. Right after a meal, you are expected to immediately clean your plate or just pour a small amount of water onto it. The whole point is to prevent the plate from going dry as it is believed that by not doing so, your supply of food will soon ‘dry out’.

What’s the reason behind this superstition?

The basic concept behind this is to ease the task of dishwashing. Would you want to wash the dishes when the plates are dried out with bits and pieces of food stuck to the base? I highly doubt it.

So, are you a believer?

So there you have it, some of the lesser known – and some of the better-documented – superstitions in the Malaysian community. Although some of these practices may seem rather unconventional, it is cultural uniqueness such as this that makes Malaysia an alluring destination for tourists seeking to get in touch with the nation’s rich cultural heritage.

7 Malaysian superstitions - which ones do you believe in? - Expat Go Malaysia:

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I have traveled far and wide and lived in South Africa, the UK and Malaysia. 

I am a technical person that never forgets anything. Recalling it at the right time though is a struggle.

I have always worked with IBM technologies and worked for them for many years. I now do my best to migrate people away from IBM technologies.


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