Quirky European superstitions

by Mary Del Rosario
Stripes Europe

In America, breaking a mirror is said to bring seven years of bad luck, while knocking on wood prevents such luck. Curious to know what superstitions Europeans believe in? Check out this list and see if you see the locals adhere to these rules during your travels!  


1. Never give a knife as a gift as it is believed to cut friendships.

2. Speaking of gift giving… never give your partner shoes as a present because they may run out on you.

3. Always look people in the eye when you “prost” or you’ll risk seven years of bad love-making!

4. Never say, “happy birthday,” to someone before their birthday as it can cause bad luck for the birthday celebrant.

5. Always knock on the table before sitting down in a pub. Doing so will ensure your friends you aren’t the devil... of course!

6. Instead of crossing fingers like Americans do, Germans “drϋcken die Daumen,” or press their thumbs.

7. It is considered good luck to be touched by a chimney sweep. In the olden days, chimney sweeps were considered lucky because it meant people were able to cook their food.


1. Number 17 is considered to be an unlucky number, which is why finding the 17th floor in a hotel won’t be possible.

2. However, you shouldn’t seat 13 people at a dinner table because there were 13 people sitting during the Last Supper.

3. Like most of Europe, air conditioners are hard to come by. However, in Italy, air conditioners are bad luck because dangerously cold air is hitting your face.  

4. To avoid unfortunate mishaps, touch iron.

5. Sprinkling salt in the corners of all rooms during a housewarming will bring good fortune to the new homeowners and will ward off the evil spirits.

6. Never place objects in the shape of a cross. For example, don’t dare to cross your fork and knife because it is an insult to the religious symbol and may jinx you.

7. If you’re single and someone accidentally sweeps over your feet, you’re destined to be single for the rest of your life!


1. Giving flowers is a thoughtful gesture, but never give someone a chrysanthemum because it will bring misfortune.

2. Since the French take their bread seriously, putting a baguette upside down on a table is unlucky.

3. Never knock over the salt because it will also bring bad luck. This superstition is believed in many countries.

4. If you have new clothes that you want to wear on a fun Friday night out, don’t! Wearing new clothes on a Friday will bring you down on you luck.

5. Be careful when walking the streets of Paris and be sure not to step in dog feces. Rumor has it, if you step on it with your left foot, it will bring good luck. However, the right foot will leave you unlucky.

6. To receive good luck, touch the red pompom (bachi) on a French sailor’s hat.


1. Seeing one magpie may bring bad luck.

2. However, it is lucky to meet a black cat. If you look closely, you’ll see many greeting and birthday cards with a black cat on it.

3. It is lucky to put money in the pocket of new clothes.

4. Never pass someone on the stairs as it considered to bring unfortunate events your way.

5. When out to eat and you drop a table knife on the floor, expect a male visitor. A female visitor can be expected if you drop a fork.

Learning about other countries’ superstitions are not only interesting but teaches you about different cultures and beliefs. What’s the quirkiest superstition you’ve ever heard of? 

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