PETALING JAYA: Social taboos and superstition are an integral part of a culture, and there is often an interesting explanation for their existence.
Every culture has its own social taboos and superstitions, and this is certainly true in the multicultural landscape of Malaysia.
Malay parents tell their children never to open an umbrella in the house. Traditional Chinese households avoid throwing out anything during Chinese New Year and Indian families make it a point to never step over books.
As superstition and social taboos are a part of everyday life, they can even have an effect on the property market.
For instance, an otherwise perfectly functional house may not appeal to some potential clients due to a number deemed unlucky or a questionable location.
Veteran property agent Ernest Cheong shared with FMT some superstitions that should be taken into account when dealing in property.
1. The number four
The number four is seen to be particularly unlucky in most East Asian cultures.
If someone should find themselves in a high-rise built by a Chinese construction firm, it is likely the lift button to indicate the fourth floor has been replaced by “3A”.
Four, in many Chinese dialects, sounds like the word for death so Chinese clients are likely to want nothing to do with a property that has the number four in its address.
It is believed that living in such a property will bring a string of bad luck and other unpleasant things.
“When the time comes to sell the property, it may be hard to find a buyer, or they may want a discount because of the taboo No 4,” said Cheong.
2. The number 13
The taboo against the number 13 is mostly derived from the European Christian culture.
Similar to the number four, 13 is also considered unlucky by some.
According to Cheong, some offices in Kuala Lumpur replace “Level 13” on the lift buttons with something more innocuous like “12A”.
The taboo against the number 13 originated from European Christian belief. After the Last Supper, Jesus Christ was betrayed by the 13th person in attendance, Judas Iscariot.
Funnily enough, one man’s unlucky number is another man’s lucky number, as 13 in Chinese culture is a lucky number, with a pronunciation similar to the words for “assured growth”.
So, it is not surprising that the superstition around the number 13 is not as strong as that of the number four in Malaysia.
3. Property facing a T-junction
Houses facing T-junctions are believed by some to be more prone to misfortune.
This superstition is shared by all three major communities in Malaysia; Malay, Chinese and Indian.
A property that happens to face a T-junction is likely to be overlooked for a variety of cultural reasons.
The Chinese believe facing a T-junction will make a property particularly inviting to spirits wandering the earth. This is especially true during the Hungry Ghost Month, when the streets are supposedly teaming with ghosts on vacation.
Taking a more practical view, some say living in a home facing a T-junction means it can be damaged by speeding drivers who fail to make the turn in time and come crashing through the gate.
4. Properties located below the level of the road
Yet another social taboo shared by several Malaysian communities is properties built below the level of the road.
The Chinese in particular believe the neighbourhood’s bad luck will flow down the road into the property.
Hence, superstitious folk look for homes that are level with the road.
5. Property with a steep slope
Houses on steep slopes are said by some to be at risk of losing good luck.
Houses built on land with a steep slope leading to the road are frowned upon by Malays, Chinese and Indians alike.
The explanation for this is similar to the one behind the aversion to properties below road level.
According to traditional Chinese belief, having a home at the top of a slope will result in the prosperity of the household flowing out onto the street and into the neighbour’s property.
“You ignore this taboo at your own peril when it comes time for you to sell your property,” warned Cheong.