Cashing in on Taiwanese Taboos: How Superstitions can Save Foreigners Money

“There is a superstition in avoiding superstition.” – Francis Bacon

As carefully as foreigners living in Taiwan have to tiptoe around traditional Taiwanese beliefs, some superstitions can spell savings. A knowledge of numbers and the Chinese Zodiac can be profitable.

Fantastic Four

Words or phrases that remind people of death can be offensive in Taiwan. Because the Chinese word for “four” can mean “death” if said in the wrong tone, Taiwanese apartments numbered four or being on the fourth floor are sometimes offered for comparatively lower rent. With this numerical taboo in mind, some hotels in Taiwan don’t have a fourth floor – floors are numbered one, two, three, five, et cetera).

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Photographer

The carvings with Chinese Zodiac on the ceilin...

The carvings with Chinese Zodiac on the ceiling of the gate to Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka (mirror image to have animals in the correct order) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A common wedding tradition in Taiwan is having professional photographs taken before the big day. A number of stores specialising in the delivery of this service exist to service the growing demand. These stores provide everything from qualified photographers to dresses and outfits to the albums and wedding stationery. Photos taken during what can be a very long photo shoot are printed and presented in a wedding album. Because of the impressive final product, many foreigners have these albums made as a keep-sake. The high quality album and photographer’s expertise (and time) do not come without a hefty price-tag – unless the Chinese Zodiac is on your side.

Despite the demand for this service, wedding photography businesses scream for customers during the Year of the Tiger (The last Year of the Tiger was the Chinese year beginning in 2010; the next Year of the Tiger begins Chinese New Year 2022). Traditionally, it is unlucky to get married during the Year of the Tiger. Many wedding photography stores offer generous discounts or numerous freebies to entice customers to defy superstition.

Unlucky Money

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

In Taiwan, wedding gifts are traditionally given in the form of money. Two Thousand New Taiwan (NT) Dollars is an unspoken minimum. Traditionally, it is unlucky to receive any amount of money beginning with an odd number (for example, three thousand or five thousand). Any amount beginning with four is unlucky (see Fantastic Four above). Therefore, the two lowest monetary gifts usually given at a Taiwanese wedding are two thousand NT Dollars or six thousand NT Dollars. Of course, hosting a traditional Taiwanese wedding feast – which can consist of up to twelve courses – isn’t cheap, but depending on the generosity of the guests, getting married in Taiwan can be profitable.

Taiwanese superstition is not necessarily a bad thing – especially if it can save money. With a little research and good timing, your bank account can be given a well-deserved break because of it.

Meanwhile, in South Africa …



  1. scintillatebrightly

    I’ve heard about all of these except for the wedding photo deals and the part about odd numbered gifts being unlucky. Interesting!

    • Kash

      My wife and I found out about the photo deals in 2010 when we had ours done. We were very lucky with the deal we got!

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