According to Merriam Webster online dictionary, superstition means a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.

You may have heard the term in other recognizable names too such as folklores, old wives tales and kata orang tua tua (grandmother’s tale) but this belief is widespread and every country seems to have their own practice intertwined in their daily lives.

Say in western countries, they believe that walking under a ladder and seeing a black cat will bring you bad luck while throwing salt over your shoulder and crossing your fingers is said to welcome good fortune. Some of you might have heard these from cartoons and films growing up.

But today we want to take you down memory lane with this round up of the more common local superstitions your mother has probably lectured (more like scared) you with. LOL.

#Malay Culture

The malays have tonnes of pantang larang (taboos) but funnily enough most of them revolve around women. One of the most popular one is of course that women are prohibited to sing in the kitchen as it is said that it would result in being married to an old man.

TBH the older the richer maybe so.. we don’t see the problem. LOL kidding (or are we..) ANY-hoo the basic concept around this is to not have your attention disturbed when you are cooking. Nobody wants to see you killing that high note to Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” while your eggs are burning in the background ok.

Another notable one is to not sit on your pillow. And not just any pillow, it’s the pillow you use to rest your head while you sleep. Why? Well if you want a painful red boil growing on your butt you are more than welcome to do so.

We're not sure what is the reason behind it, but if you think of it logically, that pillow is used for your head kan so why put your butt there lah dei. Would you put your head in the toilet bowl? don’t think so..

#Chinese Culture

Chinese have their own fair share of superstition beliefs too. One that might ring a bell is that you can’t sweep your house on Chinese New Year. This for one, is one belief that is shared among other cultures too. Essentially you can’t sweep your house on the day of big celebrations as it is said that it would sweep the good fortune out from your house.

Truly this is just to say that on holidays and celebrations you should be busy entertaining guests and loved ones and not cleaning the house. That should have been done days prior. Basically don’t procrastinate to clean the house lah okay?

Here’s another one you might have seen primarily in elevator. The unmistakable 3A button on the elevator button panel. 1, 2, 3, 3A… where’s 4????


That’s one superstition taken to a whole new level (pun intended). This is because the number 4 itself has a similar tone to the Chinese character for "death". Numbers play a significant role in the Chinese culture and that’s why the number 888 is quite a popular number too as the number in mandarin is pronounced similarly to prosperity and wealth. The reason behind this is as obvious as it gets. I mean.. every word you say is a prayer right and why on earth do you want to be associated with words that sound like death?? We’ll pass.

#Indian Culture

Have you ever noticed chilies and lemons dangling in front of your Indian neighbors’ house and at the entrance of an establishment? That, my friend is the Nimbu-Mirchi Totka. It is used to ward off the evil eye which can bring bad luck to a household.


The story behind this is that the tied up fruits and vegetables are used to keep Alakshmi, sister of Goddess Lakshmi away. Alakshmi is believed to bring poverty and misery, and likes sour, pungent and spicy things. This way she would satisfy her hunger with the lemon and chilies and would leave without casting any evil eye. And hey, there’s nothing to lose here. Lemons at your doorstep? Smells like a good idea for us.

Another household related superstition is to boil a pot of milk over the stove until it overflows when you move into a new house. This is to signify abundance of wealth and prosperity that will ensue the family.


The boiled milk is then presented as an offering to chosen deities and served with a pinch of sugar to guests. What’s the logic behind this one? Well you just moved into a new house right, why not greet your guests with some sweet offerings to mark a new start to your life. What you give, you get back.

#Sabahan Culture


Travelling to Sabah anytime soon? (LOL you wish.. it’s Covid season ok) Fret not, you can always prepare yourself by getting to know some superstitions amongst the locals there. If you plan to climb Mount Kinabalu, there are a few precautions that you must take as the mountain is sacred to locals. You must not shout or curse to avoid spirits from following you home and you must not pick any stones or pluck any leaves or flowers as these things may belong to spirits and if you take the home, they will aggravate you! OMG goosebumps. The reason for this belief is not only to respect customs but to also respect mother earth. No need to excavate the land, we are only here on this planet as guests, so keep your attitude in check ok!

Locals in Sabah Borneo believe that when a big moth flies into your house in the middle of the night, it is actually the spirit of a recently departed relative. So when you spot one, don’t be too quick to get a broom and smack the poor thing.

They also believe that when these insects come fluttering into your homes during daytime, it might be a sign that a friend or someone close to you will be visiting soon. What we can derive from this is that these beliefs are mainly to show respect to nature and its bountiful species.

#Sarawakian Culture

This one superstition is still practiced in some longhouses. When you see someone with a bucket, a fishing rod and fishing nets, DO NOT say “Hey are you going fishing?” Unless you are just trying to ruin someone’s day. It is said that when you state the obvious question you are basically ridding the person of good luck and they will end up going home with no catch.

The logic behind this might be idk.. don’t waste someone’s time with unnecessary questions?? With the tools he is carrying it is HIGHLY unlikely that he’s about to go sew a dress or on his way to a singing competition. Sheesh. don’t waste people’s time.

Another belief is that when you are a guest at somebody’s house and you have to make a leave right at the time the host is serving food, you need to touch the serving plate to avoid “kempunan” which means the utter longing and disappointment of not getting something.

The Ibans also believe that you have to eat three pinch of rice before you leave the house to avoid any mishaps on your journey. Now if you think about it, it’s more about the respect that you are supposed to show your host. You have to leave right away? Well at least acknowledge what they have served you okay..

There you have it, the local superstitions across all cultures in Malaysia! Doesn’t it just make you feel so happy to learn all of these multicultural superstitions? Just makes you feel proud of our diversity and more than anything it reminds us of the connection we have with our roots and family.

Check out Hello’s The Eternal Bond to see parents and children exchanging appreciation and strengthening their connection with each other. We promise you it’s gonna be a tear jerker one, prepare some tissues!