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10 local myths and superstitions every Singaporean should know

Don't do this, don't do that – these superstitions have been around forever

superstitions
Photo: Tony Detroit
By Huang Junyi and Delfina Utomo |
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It's a modern world we live in now with advanced public transportation systems and super futuristic buildings, but we're still the most superstitious people around. Our irrational belief in all things supernatural means age-old superstitions remain. From the ridiculous to the ones that hold some sort of logic explanation, let's talk superstitions.

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Singapore Botanical Gardens - Rain forest Trail

Taking a piss in the wild has rules

If somehow you managed to find yourself in the most rural part of Singapore where not a single public toilet is in sight and you need to answer the call of nature, what do you do? Carry on, of course like the primal creatures we are but it is most important to "apologise" or say sorry out loud before you take that sneaky wee because you may be peeing on the 'homes' of 'others'. 

Night time

Don’t whistle at night

Superstition or not, whistling late at night is just plain creepy. According to local superstition, whistling at night draws the attention of wandering spirits who will inevitably follow you home. Truth is, we highly suspect that it's something the adults made up when we were kids to shut us up before bed time. 

 

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Touch wood

“Touch wood”

More of an expression than a myth, the phrase "touch wood" is commonly heard when someone says something negative and immediately starts tapping the table (or anything wood).  What does it all mean? The practice stems from the pagan belief that malevolent spirits inhabited wood, so by knocking on wood it means that you've expressed a hope for the future so you should touch wood to prevent the spirits from hearing and presumably preventing your hopes from coming true.

 

Playing Mahjong

Never tap a gambler’s shoulder

During a heated gambling session, it's best to lay your hands off the players in the game, even if it is for reassuring pat or squeeze. It's Chinese superstition that touching the shoulders of the gambler would wash away of their luck. So next time you're in one of the major casinos, best to keep your hands to yourself. 

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dishes
Photo: Jasmin Schreiber

If you want a good-looking spouse...

...you have to finish your food first. There is absolutely no link whatsoever between the two statements. Come on, too easy. We obviously know this is a ploy parents use to prevent food wastage. Unless of course it has happened to someone in real life – remember to hit us up.

 

Mirror

Don’t sleep facing the mirror

This one gets a little spooky. According to Fengshui, your soul leaves your body when you are in a slumber, looking at the mirror inevitably will put you in rude shock as the reflection will reflect your soul (which probably looks nothing like what you imagined), which in turn might lead to your soul never wanting to return to your body. A sort of free spirit, they say. 

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laundry
Photo: Dmitry Arslanov/Unsplash

Don't hang out wet laundry at night

Want to see your favourite empowered female banshee hanging out at the laundry area? That's easy, just hang out your freshly-washed laundry at 11pm at night. Apparently Pontianaks hunt their prey by sniffing out the smell of fresh laundry so sucks to be a diligent household chores enthusiast. The real reason we think lies in the fact that because at night, we'll be asleep to notice if it rains or not and might need to move the laundry. 

nails
Photo: Designecologist/Unsplash

Never cut your nails at night

The creepy reasons include shortening your life, leaving your DNA around for spirits to 'steal' and take your form and confusing your loved ones or people using your nails for black magic. The real reason probably came from way back in the days when light at night was scarce and cutting your nails at night means you might lead to injury. Pretty legit.

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feet
Photo: Ani Kolleshi/Unsplash

Wash your feet when you reach home

Damn these pesky spirits are back at it again. It is believed that if you don't wash your feet (and in some versions, the face as well), wandering spirits might follow you home. This is a good one if you're trying to tell someone that their feet are stinkin' up the whole place. 

threes
Photo: Suhyeon Choi

Don't take pictures in threes

According to superstition, the person in the middle will die. For no reason whatsoever. Besides the fact that we will all eventually die, this myth is probably linked to how odd numbers are considered bad luck... or some person who couldn't deal with assymmetry and disallowed odd numbers in groups. 

 

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