International students share their superstitions


Sophomore biochemistry major and international student Anahita Keer discusses superstitions from her home country of India.

Superstitions such as not walking past black cats and avoiding walking under ladders have played a role in American culture, but they are a much bigger deal in other parts of the world.

Superstitions are a major part of Indian culture, international student and biochemistry sophomore Anahita Keer said.

Sophomore biochemistry major and international student Anahita Keer discusses superstitions from her home country of India. Photo by Hannah Lathen

“India in general is a really superstitious place since there are so many religions,” Keer said.

In India there are priests called Babas that people go to for certain big events in their lives.

“Let’s say there is a wedding. They look at your horoscope, your astrology and read the numbers. Then they say, ‘OK, you should get married on this day, at this place,’ otherwise if you don’t get married on this date, it is inauspicious,” she said.

If someone is going to have a baby, then the priest will tell you what the first letter of their name should be as well at the number of letters in their name.

Keer said she had a friend whose name was Mayank, and it was decided that he needed to have seven letters in his name based on his chart.

“They legally got their name changed to add an extra ‘y,’’’ Keer said. “They said he needed to have seven letters in his name or an odd number, so his mom legally changed his name to add, Mayyank.”

Keer said it is common to see people hang chili peppers and limes in their cars to ward off ghosts. When leaving the house, people should eat yogurt and sugar before they go. The number three means bad luck.

“If a woman’s left eye twitches, it is good luck or you are going to hear some good news,” she said.

Keer said the most common and important superstition in India is always handing money to someone with your right hand.

“If you hand it with your left hand, it is bad luck,” she said.

Also when giving gifts such as money, Keer said, it has to be an odd amount.

“If you give $100, it has to be $101,” she said. “Or if you have to give $50, you have to give $51 as a gift.”

International students share superstitions from India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mexico, and Serbia.
Graphic by Hannah Onder

Blen Hussain, a political science sophomore and an international student from Ethiopia, said one of the biggest parts of her culture is to respect one’s parents or else you are cursed.

“No matter what your parents say, even if it is ridiculous, you listen to them,” Hussain said. “If your parents say don’t date, don’t do it.”

Hussain said that if a person’s left palm itches, it is believed that they are about to receive money, and if the right palm itches, they are about to lose money.

“If the inside of one’s foot itches, it is believed that that person is about to travel,” she said.

Ethiopians believe in bouba, Hussain said, which is an evil being often associated with jealousy.

“For example, if a beautiful woman is unable to find a partner, it is sometimes said that ‘bouda belat’ which literally translates to the bouda ate her, but means someone was jealous or has been eyeing her,” Houssain said.

Hussain said a superstition common in Uganda is that if men have an ear piercing or some other type of body abnormality like a scar then they are ineligible for human sacrifice.

Jacquleine Rodriguez, a senior political science and religion major, is an international student from Mexico. She said one of the superstitions there is if you hit your elbow and then rub it, you will have bad luck.

“Having scissors under the bed, you are not letting bad spirits in,” Rodriguez said. “If you are sweeping and someone sweeps your feet it means you will never get married.”

Ana Aleksandric, a computer science sophomore and international student from Serbia, said some of the superstitions in her country include not breaking a mirror or a person will have seven years of bad luck.

“We believe that nobody should cut their nails in the evening or you will have bad luck,” Aleksandric said. “Also, never put a bag of money on the floor because you will lose that money.”

As an athlete on the table tennis team, Aleksandric said she has some superstitious rituals of her own. When she prepares to play a game, she will wear a certain T-shirt for good luck.

“When I am warming up, I am singing the same song in my head,” she said. “If I remember the last time I won I was singing it, I will sing it again.”
Aleksandric said she tries to repeat the same daily routine as she did the last time she won a match.

“If I drink from a certain cup, I am going to do it again before the important game. I will just repeat same thing I did last time,” she said. “It is not true, but I feel better in my head.”