‘The gates of hell will be opened in the coming week as the Hungry Ghost Festival approaches.’ Believe it or not, but a lot of Hong Kong people do still observe the taboos according to Chinese tradition. Most Hong Kongers are familiar with these taboos that help to keep one safe from spirits. For example, don’t stay in the last room at the end of a corridor, knock before entering a hotel room or place slippers in opposite directions. As Hong Kongers love to travel abroad during the summer holidays, KAYAK.com.hk is here to refresh your memory on traditions and taboos in different parts of the world.
Asia: Cow is God / Mind your Head and Hands
Analysis done by KAYAK.com.hk shows that more than half (51%) of summer travel searches from Hong Kong were to Asian countries. Although Asian countries have always been popular destinations, how savvy are Hong Kong Travellers when it comes to different cultures, taboos and traditions?
In South-east Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia, a person’s head is considered to be a sacred part of the body, and it must not be touched without permission. You should not touch a kid’s head no matter how cute he or she is. Similarly, when passing an object to another person, keep it lower than the other person’s head as a sign of respect. Locals generally consider one’s left hand to be unclean, so when having dinner or passing things around, always use the right hand. If there’s no choice, apologise by saying “Please, excuse me for using my left hand”.
In some areas of Thailand, people avoid sleeping with their heads pointing west as it symbolises death. Yet in Japan, people think that sleeping with their heads pointing north will bring bad luck, causing nightmares or even shortening their lives. In South Korea, people believe that sleeping with the electric fan on can cause suffocation. Some electronic brands even remind users not to turn the fan on during their sleep in the user’s manual!
Many countries worship sacred animals. One of the most famous examples of this is that in India cattle are seen to symbolise God; and if a cow is harmed, even accidentally, the offender can be sentenced to jail. Similarly, in Cambodia, cattle and buffalo are regarded as holy animals. Harming either is an action punishable by God. In China, turtles symbolise longevity, yet in Malaysia, turtles are considered ominous animals and portents of bad luck!
Europe: Baguette Butt / Salty Shoulder Namaste
KAYAK.com.hk’s data shows approximately 15% of Hong Kong travellers wish to travel to Europe during the summer. Europe has long been a dream destination for many Hong Kongers but, how familiar are Hong Kongers with the European traditions and taboos?
The French believe that baguettes placed face down brought bad luck. During the Middle Ages, French bakers identified headsman by placing their bread upside down. Thus, people associated upturned bread with misfortune. In Germany, Germans will not toast with water while others drink wine, as it implies cursing the person whom is receiving the toast.
In the Middle Ages, salt was precious. Until now, many European countries still consider spilling salt to be unlucky. However, if salt is spilt, tradition dictates that one should sprinkle a pinch of salt over their left shoulder. This behavior is to blind the devil and to avoid to disaster. In the Netherlands, lending salt to neighbours is believed to bring misfortune, yet in Germany, people send salt and bread to their relatives as housewarming gifts, symbolising ample food and clothing for years to come.
KAYAK.com.hk shares traditions and taboos from different countries to remind travellers what they need to look out for when they travel.